Some local delegates sit out vote for openly gay Richmond prosecutor nominated for judgeship
This has been a historic year for gay rights. The military lifted the don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy, leading to a groundbreaking homecoming kiss. And for the first time ever, a sitting president declared he now supports same-sex marriages.
This morning, state delegates also faced a historic choice. An openly gay Richmond prosecutor was nominated for a district court judgeship in that city.
Tracy Thorne-Begland could have become the first gay judge in Virginia. But last-minute lobbying by Del. Bob Marshall helped reject the prosecutor, mostly along party lines. Begland’s boss said this was nothing more than prejudice.
“It is hard to think about what happened at the general assembly and not conclude that it is not a form of bigotry,” says Mike Herring.
But others said the former Navy officer lobbied for gay rights while in the service, and may advocate for gay issues on the bench.
“This is about someone who violated the oath of office and if he did it once, we think he might do it again,” says Del. Tim Hugo.
And the delegate who pushed for the rejection said a gay judge who supports gay marriage can’t serve in a state that doesn’t allow it. Like Bob Marshall, most delegates took a stand one way or another. But 26 delegates you hired cast no vote at all. They didn’t take a stand either way. We started working the phones to find out why.
Del. Johnny Joannou’s assistant said the session went late on Tuesday, and he had to go home. She said the delegate, who is a lawyer, had a trial scheduled in Portsmouth this morning and left before voting.
And as the judicial rejection made headlines across the country, the rest of the local non-voters were not available.
Chris Jones’ assistant said he was busy in his pharmacy and couldn’t talk. Roslyn Tyler’s voicemail said she’s only available two days a week, and today wasn’t one of them.
And Del. David Yancey was not available either. We left a message.
We also left messages for Rich Morris, Bob Purkey and Bob Tata. By the end of the business day, none called back to say why, with this issue gaining more and more prominence, they cast no vote at all.
How did your local representatives vote? Click the link below to find out.
Contact your local representative and let them know what you think.