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Gay prosecutor rejected for judgeship in Va.

GOP lawmakers denounced for killing nomination of former Navy pilot

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Virginia’s Republican-controlled House of Delegates created an uproar among rival Democrats and LGBT activists early Tuesday morning when it voted to reject the nomination of gay Richmond prosecutor Tracy Thorne-Begland for the post of General District Court judge.

The 1 a.m. vote came in the last hour of the Virginia General Assembly’s 2012 legislative session. It followed claims by several Republican delegates that Thorne was unfit to be a judge because he has been an advocate for LGBT rights and couldn’t make impartial rulings on the bench.

The opposing lawmakers, led by Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County), also charged that Thorne-Begland “misrepresented” himself on an enlistment application by not disclosing he was gay when he joined the Navy.

Thorne-Begland, a decorated Naval officer and fighter pilot, became a nationally recognized advocate for ending the military’s ban on gay service members in 1992 when he disclosed that he is gay, leading to his honorable discharge from the service a short time later.

“The fact that he defied his oath and could not have been candid on the application – that’s highly problematic and it stays with you,” Marshall told his colleagues.

When the vote was called, 33 delegates – 25 Democrats and eight Republicans — voted for the nomination, with 31 lawmakers – all Republicans – voting against the nomination. But nine Republicans and one independent abstained from voting and 19 Republicans and seven Democrats either were absent or did not vote, preventing Thorne-Begland from obtaining the 51 votes needed to approve the nomination in the 100-member House.

Under Virginia’s procedure for appointing judges, the General Assembly members representing Richmond, the area where Thorne-Begland would have served as a judge, placed his name in nomination after determining he was qualified for the post. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell didn’t advocate for Thorne-Begland’s nomination but issued a statement on Tuesday saying judicial nominees “must be considered based solely on their merit, record, aptitude and skill.”

Thorne-Begland, 45, serves as Richmond’s Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney and has worked as a Richmond prosecutor for 12 years.

His boss, Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Herring, called Thorne-Begland highly qualified to serve as a judge.

“It’s hard to think about what happened in the General Assembly and not conclude that it’s a form of bigotry,” Herring said at a news conference in Richmond Tuesday afternoon. He called the vote to defeat Thorne-Begland an “embarrassment” for the state.

“The debate in the House of Delegates was homophobic and embarrassing,” said Virginia State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), who is gay. “It showed disrespect to a Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney and decorated veteran who was honorably discharged,” Ebbin said. “It’s also offensive that the Senate wouldn’t even grant Lt. Thorne-Begland the courtesy of a vote.”

Ebbin was referring to a unanimous vote by Senate Republicans to invoke a parliamentary procedure that blocked the Senate from voting on Thorne-Begland’s nomination. Ebbin noted that although a Senate vote in favor of the nomination could not have saved the nomination because both houses are needed to approve it, he said the Senate should have taken a vote on the issue.

“I believe the Senate would have voted in favor of the nomination,” he told the Blade.

Thorne-Begland would have become Virginia’s first openly gay judge if the General Assembly had approved his nomination.

A Washington Post editorial said Thorne-Begland’s nomination was “sabotaged by an ugly campaign of homophobic bigotry led by Virginia Republicans.”

Equality Virginia, a statewide LGBT advocacy group, said it was especially troubled that too many lawmakers succumbed to “fear mongering and shrill personal attacks” against Thorne-Begland by the Virginia Family Foundation, which opposes LGBT rights.

“The fact that the legislature caved in to the Family Foundation’s biased blathering is another unfortunate marker on the forced march to the past on which they seem determined to lead the Commonwealth,” Equality Virginia said in a May 15 statement.

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Comings & Goings

Lane named senior counsel at Brady United

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Thomas Patrick Lane

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at [email protected].

Congratulations to Thomas Patrick Lane the new Senior Litigation Counsel and Director of Affirmative Litigation with Brady United. According to its website, Brady’s mission is, “To unite all Americans against gun violence. We work across Congress, the courts, and our communities with over 90 grassroots chapters, bringing together young and old, red and blue, and every shade of color to find common ground in common sense. In the spirit of our namesakes Jim and Sarah Brady, we have fought for over 45 years to take action, not sides, and we will not stop until this epidemic ends. It’s in our hands.”

Jonathan Lowy, chief counsel and vice president of legal at Brady said, “The whole Brady team is thrilled to welcome Tom’s skills as a trial lawyer and his leadership as a champion for justice and a voice for inclusivity and equal rights. Tom is one of the top litigators in the country, and has been a fighter his whole life who has proven himself undaunted by any challenge, including taking on the gun industry for its role in causing gun violence in America. Tom’s expertise and insights into complex litigation involving emerging technologies, such as 3-D printed guns, “smart” technology, and online commerce, will bolster our fight for industry-wide change by holding companies accountable and forcing reforms that will make all Americans safer.”

Upon accepting the position Lane said, “From my time as a prosecutor to private practice, I have seen the effects of gun violence and the importance of defending victims and survivors and upholding common-sense laws that keep our families and communities safe. I am excited to bring that background to Brady and to continue this important work nationwide.”

Prior to joining Brady, Lane was a partner in the New York office of Winston & Strawn, LLP. Before that he was a partner in Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner LLP. He is recognized as one of the country’s top intellectual property and new media lawyers. He tried the first Internet music case and the first Digital Millennium Copyright Act safe harbor case before juries. He has also served as a senior trial attorney in the office of the New York Kings County District Attorney.

Lane represented the City of New York in litigation against major gun manufacturers in the early 2000s. LawDragon named him as one of the 500 Leading Lawyers in America.

Lane earned his undergraduate degree from Hamilton College, Clinton, N.Y.; and his J.D. from Tulane University School of Law in New Orleans. He has created an endowed scholarship there for LGBTQ students to help law firms realize the importance of hiring diverse rosters of attorneys, and to honor the courage of his uncles Bernard Lane (an Army Ranger decorated with two Bronze Stars) and Richard Morrison (a recovered alcoholic who devoted his life to counseling others).

Both men were known for their toughness tendered by humor and both lived openly in loving relationships with same-sex partners in the 1970s. Lane is a former board member of the National LGBT Bar Association. He directs all external legal matters for the Tyler Clementi Foundation, whose mission is to end bullying in schools, workplaces, and faith communities.

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100th anniversary celebration of Dupont Circle fountain set for May 17

GWU student creates tribute video

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Dupont Circle Fountain, Russian news agency, gay news, Washington Blade
The iconic Dupont Circle fountain turns 100 this month. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

LGBTQ residents and longtime visitors to D.C.’s Dupont Circle neighborhood are expected to be among the participants in the 100th anniversary celebration of the installation of the Dupont Circle fountain scheduled to be held at the circle on Monday, May 17.

Aaron DeNu, president of Dupont Festival, a nonprofit arts and cultural programming group that’s organizing the celebration, says it will take place from noon to at least sunset inside Dupont Circle.

The celebration will take place one week after the May 10 release of a YouTube video, “How Dupont Circle Evolved as a Hub for LGBTQ+ Life in the District,” produced by George Washington University student Dante Schulz. Schulz is the video editor for the G.W. student newspaper The Hatchet.

Among those appearing in the documentary video are veteran LGBTQ rights activists Deacon Maccubbin and his husband Jim Bennett, who owned and operated the Dupont Circle LGBTQ bookstore Lambda Rising beginning in the 1970s, which is credited with contributing to Dupont Circle’s reputation as the epicenter of D.C.’s LGBTQ community for many years.

Also appearing in the video is longtime D.C. gay activist and Dupont Circle area resident Craig Howell, a former president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance.

“At this point in time due to COVID restrictions we’re not going to be doing any particular formal gathering of folks,” DeNu told the Washington Blade in describing the May 17 celebration. “But we’ll have a soundtrack that’s playing throughout the day from that original ceremony – the same songs they used in the original dedication a hundred years ago,” he said.

DeNu said the event will also feature “historic imagery” related to Dupont Circle and the people who have gathered there over the years.

“So, we’re really just inviting people to come and have lunch, stop by the park after work, and just stop and reflect on 100 years of Dupont Circle fountain, take a look at the imagery and see some old friends and hopefully stop by and see the Dupont businesses that are around the area,” DeNu said.

The LGBTQ video produced by Dante Schultz can be accessed here.

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Va. GOP governor nominee opposes transgender-inclusive youth sports

Glenn Youngkin made comment to Arlington voters in March

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Glenn Youngkin (Photo via Twitter)

 

The Republican gubernatorial candidate to succeed Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has said he does not support allowing transgender children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

“Biological males should not be allowed to play sports in girls sports,” Glenn Youngkin said during a meeting with a group of voters in Arlington on March 25, according to the Washington Examiner. “It’s just not fair.”

The Washington Blade has reached out to Youngkin’s campaign for comment.

Youngkin, the former co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, on Saturday defeated Pete Snyder, former House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield County), Peter Doran, Sergio de la Peña and Octavia Johnson in the Republican Party of Virginia’s nominating convention. Virginia Republicans nominated Winsome Sears and Jason Miyares as their candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general respectively.

The Democratic Party of Virginia will hold its primary on June 8. Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe is widely expected to win the vote, and run against Youngkin in the general election.

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