The Richmond Circuit Court on Thursday approved the nomination of a gay prosecutor to the city’s General District Court.
“I am humbled by the Circuit Court’s decision,” Tracy Thorne-Begland, chief deputy commonwealth attorney for the city of Richmond, said in a statement. “I look forward to serving the citizens of the city of Richmond as a jurist, and over the coming months I hope that my service provides comfort to all Virginians that I remain committed to the faithful application of the laws and constitutions of Virginia and the United States of America.”
The court’s decision comes almost a month after the Republican-controlled House of Delegates rejected Thorne-Begland’s nomination. Delegate Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) stressed before the May 15 vote that the former Navy pilot “misrepresented” himself when he failed to disclose his sexual orientation when he enlisted in 1992.
Marshall did not immediately return the Blade’s request for comment. State Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico,) who sponsored Thorne-Begland’s nomination in the state Senate, applauded the appointment.
“I applaud the Circuit Court judges for recognizing Mr. Thorne-Begland’s skill, qualifications and competency and putting aside bigotry, prejudice and false excuses,” he said. “I have always had and continue to have the utmost confidence in Mr. Thorne-Begland’s ability to serve our community and I am gratified to see that the circuit court judges share my confidence.”
Governor Bob McDonnell also applauded the appointment.
“The governor believes Mr. Thorne-Begland is well-qualified to serve on the bench,” spokesperson Taylor Thornley told the Blade. “He congratulates him on the appointment.”
The Richmond Circuit Court had the authority to appoint Thorne-Begland on an interim basis because lawmakers did not fill the vacancy. His term is slated to begin on July 1, but lawmakers could rescind the temporary appointment once they reconvene next year.
“Equality Virginia is pleased the Circuit Court, like most Virginians, recognizes Tracy Thorne-Begland is a qualified choice for the bench,” said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia. “The LGBT community is excited he will be the first openly gay judge serving in the state.”
Former Attorney General Richard Cullen and former Virginia Bar Association President James Meath were among the five prominent Richmond attorneys who urged the court to appoint Thorne-Begland in a letter they sent to Richmond Circuit Court Judge Richard D. Taylor, Jr., on Tuesday. Meath, who chairs Williams Mullen, told the Blade that he is “very pleased that the judges of the circuit court saw fit to appoint him.”