Va. gay judge to get second hearing

Jan. 14, 2013 at 5:32 PM
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RICHMOND, Va., Jan. 14 (UPI) -- Virginia lawmakers will again consider the fate of an openly gay judge who criticized "don't ask, don't tell" during his time in the military.

Judge Tracy Thorne-Begland was denied a Richmond General District Court seat six months ago but was made an interim appointee on the Virginia Circuit Court. Judges appointed on an interim basis must earn confirmation by both houses of the Virginia Legislature if they wish to stay on the job for a full six-year term.

When his appointment was first considered, Thorne-Berglund's appointment failed 33-31 with 10 abstentions and 26 delegates not voting. A judge needs 55 yeas to earn a seat from the lower chamber. The state Senate must also approve a judge, The (Norfolk) Virginian Pilot said Monday.

Opposition to Thorne-Berglund's appointment came from two camps within the Republican caucus -- those who object because he's openly gay and retired military who saw his opposition to "don't ask, don't tell" while still enlisted as insubordination.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said he supports giving the judge a full term and urged lawmakers to make their decision based on the merits, not someone's sexual orientation.

"The governor believes Mr. Thorne-Begland has apparently done a good job on the bench and is well-qualified to continue to serve," McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said. "He believes strongly that judges, and candidates for the bench, should only be considered based on their aptitude, skill and merit."

A vote could come as early as Tuesday, the paper said.

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