IF ANYTHING, Tracy Thorne-Begland, a top state prosecutor in Richmond with a decade of courtroom experience, is overqualified for a judgeship on the General District Court. Mr. Thorne-Begland, who has prosecuted dozens of homicides and other major felonies, runs one of the biggest commonwealth’s attorney’s offices in Virginia. The caseload of the court to which he was nominated consists mainly of traffic violations, minor crimes and run-of-the-mill civil disputes over contracts and late rent payments.
But the judicial nomination of Mr. Thorne-Begland, a former Navy fighter pilot who is gay, was sabotaged by an ugly campaign of homophobic bigotry led by Virginia Republicans. In a vote at 1 a.m. Tuesday, the GOP-dominated House of Delegates, with an avowed homophobe leading the charge, killed his candidacy, thereby ensuring that Virginia state courts remain free of openly gay judges.
Although Mr. Thorne-Begland had the backing of Virginia’s Republican governor, as well as a Republican sponsor in the state House, Republicans cast all 31 votes against him, and more than two dozen GOP lawmakers either didn’t vote or abstained. That was more than enough to kill his nomination, which needed 51 votes to succeed. Just eight of 67 House Republicans joined 25 Democrats in voting for the nomination.