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General Assembly Rejects Gay Judge

Alexandria's Sen. Adam Ebbin called the House of Delegates' debate "homophobic."

The state House of Delegates voted 33-31, with 10 abstentions, to reject Richmond prosecutor Tracy Thorne-Begland's bid to become a General District Court judge, saying his support for gay marriage made him a poor candidate for the bench.

Openly gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30th District), told The Washington Post's Virginia Politics blog: "The debate in the House of Delegates was homophobic and embarrassing and showed a disrespect to a chief deputy commonwealth attorney and decorated veteran who was honorably discharged."

Gov. Bob McDonnell said through a spokesman that a judicial nominee's sexual orientation should not be an issue. Del. Bob Marshall (R-13th District), the Family Foundation and others said they did not object to a possible Thorne-Begland judgeship because he is gay, but because his is outspoken on gay rights issues and supports gay marriage.

Marshall criticized Thorne-Begland for revealing that he was a gay naval officer on the TV program "Nightline" 20 years ago.

"The Navy spent $1 million training him," Marshall told The Washington Post. "That's cheating the country out of the investment in him."

Jackson Wentworth May 16, 2012 at 02:45 PM
Rep. Mr. Marshall appears not to be a Christian. The bible tells us all that "Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness". Mr. Marshall claims that the Country did not get its "investment" out of Naval Officer Thorne-Begland. Officer Thorne-Begland was honorably discharged. His point: A Naval officer, and I might add a Christian, has an obligation to tell the truth. Rep. Mr. Marshall should be more considerate of the truth, or he should not serve the nation, or the Christian Community, in a leadership role.
Jackson Wentworth May 16, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Mr./Ms. Publius makes an intriguing claim - no political activist should be allowed to serve later in life as a judge. By this standard, two great justices would not have been allowed to serve our Country. Chief Justice William Rehnquist (activist conservative pushing for Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon prior to his service on the Supreme Court) and Chief Justice Earl Warren (Governor of California, active moderate to liberal politician) would never have been Judges. I rather like Mr./Ms. Publius’s argument – let us start by removing policians and political appointees such as Scalia, Roberts, Thomas, Alito, and Kagan as they have given strong opinions and roles in politics prior to service, and keep only the academics and unopinionated private practice attorneys – Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer.
Publius Publicola May 16, 2012 at 04:49 PM
@ Jackson - Good point - However, conservative judges tend to be the most impartial and are originalists, driven by the belief that judges should not make policy decisions properly left by the text of the U.S. Constitution to the executive and legislative branches of government. Liberals hate this. As CA witnessed, a gay activist judge, appointed by Reagan, instead of recusing himself, shot down a gay marriage ban that the people of CA voted on. What's to say Mr. Thorne-Begland won't do the same if he reaches a higher judicial rung?
Jackson Wentworth May 16, 2012 at 09:41 PM
@Publius - also a good point. When a jurist is actively involved or a direct beneficiary of a case (a gay person being allowed to marry if the legislation stands) then perhaps he or she should not be a final vote on the panel. However, Conservatives have their fingers in similar conflict of interest pies - witness Justice Scalia benefiting from a close personal relationship (including duck hunting) with VP Mr. Cheney yet also sitting on a case in which Mr. Cheney was a party. I agree that one should recuse. I disagree that conservative have an edge on doing right by the constitution. A sad statement on our jurists overall. That said, if Officer Thorne-Begland is a person of proper training and character, he should be allowed to serve. When, like Mr. Scalia he serves inappropriately, then he should step down or be removed.
Publius Publicola May 16, 2012 at 10:26 PM
If you're referring to the case which the Supremes heard that was brought against Mr. Cheney's Secret Service detail from 2006, Mr. Cheney was not a party to this suit as the agent(s) were named (http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/reichle-v-howards/) although it involved an event that he was at. So, from this lawyer's perspective, there is no conflict of interest. If Mr. Cheney were named in the suit, of course Mr. Scalia should recuse himself as I am sure he would have. Likewise, Justice Kagan should have recused herself based upon her work she did for the new health care plan in preparing the Government's case. Now, for Mr. Thorne-Begland, I have read his writings on the subject of gay rights and quite frankly, I have a hard time believing he could be impartial on a case before him involving this issue against the Virginia Constitution. Would he recuse himself? As strongly as Mr. Begland believes in this cause, I have a hard time believing he would.

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