Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney rips House of Delegates for "bigotry" | News
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT)- Richmond's top prosecutor comes out firing, sensing bigotry at the General Assembly.
Lawmakers in the House of Delegates worked well past midnight and voted down the judicial nomination of Tracy Thorne-Begland, who is openly gay.
Mere hours after his nomination to the Richmond General District bench was defeated, Thorne-Begland was back in his usual role as Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney, going over police reports and keeping a low profile. His boss, however, condemned what happened at the capitol.
"For me it sort of sums up the admonition that we are taught as youngsters, that you don't empower small, close-minded people," said Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Herring, who blasted the House of Delegates during a noontime news conference. "It is hard to think about what happened at the General Assembly and not conclude that it is a form of bigotry."
Herring was later asked about the vote tally. 10 delegates abstained, claiming a conflict of interest. Another 26 chose not to vote at all.
"If there's a tough call to make, you make the tough call, you draw the criticism, you move on to the next decision. You don't duck the call," Herring said. "I don't know how Virginia overcomes now this perception that it is an anti-gay forum."
In the 1990s, Thorne-Begland, then a Navy pilot, made national news for coming out as gay, which at the time went against military policy. But Tuesday, Republican lawmakers, backed by The Family Foundation, claimed it was not his sexual orientation but rather his activist history that torpedoed his nomination.
"There's just not room for any possibility of political views affecting the impartiality that's needed in the courtroom and General Assembly members clearly didn't know him well enough to be certain that that couldn't happen," said Victoria Cobb, president of The Family Foundation. "The reality is that once you have taken an oath and violated it, that's not the type of person the General Assembly typically puts on the bench."
Thorne-Begland's boss called the vote embarrassing.
"I don't know that a gay judge would do that any differently than a heterosexual judge. I mean, where's the empirical evidence that once a gay person puts on a robe he or she advances this gay agenda? I don't even know what a gay agenda is," Herring said.
Thorne-Begland declined to make a comment, other than to thank the Democrats and Republicans who did support his now failed nomination.
To see the roll call of how state delegates voted, including those who chose not to vote, click here.
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