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Lawmakers block gay advocate from Va. judge seat

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By Alix Bryan and Jerrita Patterson

Richmond, VA (WTVR) — The vote over Tracy Thorne-Begland’s nomination as judge to the Richmond General District Courts ran late into Tuesday morning. At 1:13 a.m. , Del. Jennifer McClellan (D – Richmond) announced lawmakers voted down Begland’s nomination 33-31 with 10 abstentions. He needed 51 votes.

Del. Bob Marshall (R -Manassas) wanted Thorne-Begland, who is openly gay, removed from consideration because of the prosecutor’s past involvement with the gay rights movement, most notably his network interview about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“I don’t even think it’s proper to put his name forward because of his behavior,” said Marshall, who called Thorne-Begland “a homosexual activist,” in a press release.

“I would like to thank my sponsors, Senator Donald McEachin, and Delegates Jennifer McClellan and Manoli Loupassi and my family for their support,” Thorne-Begland said in a statement published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “I look forward to continuing to serve the citizens of the city of Richmond and the great commonwealth of Virginia.”

Numerous advocates came forward in defense of Thorne-Begland’s service to his country, in the Navy, and also as an esteemed prosecutor.

Earlier in the day, Governor Bob McDonnell said that the decision was completely up to the General Assembly, and he would only get involved if there was a dead-lock.

“All I can tell you is what I’ve always said about judges and that is that these ought to be merit based selections solely based on a persons, skill ability, fairness, judicial temperament,” said Gov. McDonnell. “Issues of race, sex, sexual-orientation, wealth, “none” of those things should be factors in whether or not you put somebody on the bench.”

After the vote, Del. Mark Kearn (D – Vienna) tweeted Begland was the first judicial nominee rejected by the House he could recall during his his three year in office:

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