The GOP-dominated Virginia House of Delegates rejected the judicial nomination of an openly gay prosecutor in fear that he would allow his sexual orientation to influence his judicial decisions.
Had he been nominated, Tracy Thorne-Begland, would have been the first openly gay judge elected in Virginia, according to The Richmond-Times-Dispatch.
After late night discussion and lobbying, Thorne-Begland received 33 votes with 31 delegates voting against him. He needed a majority of the 100-member house to clinch the nomination. His nomination to be a judge on the General District Court in Richmond—where he is currently a prosecutor—had already been approved by the Senate courts committees.
The nomination of Thorne-Begland came into question last week after the Family Foundation and Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Prince William tried to block his appointment because he is an “aggressive activist for the pro-homosexual agenda.”
“Would Mr. Thorne-Begland also challenge rules that apply to Virginia courts? Can this candidate swear the required oath to support our state’ constitution if he has already indicated by his past actions that he does not support that section of our constitution barring same-sex legal relationships?
“While our judges and judicial candidates certainly have a right to free speech, they do not have the right to disregard the Virginia constitution”
Many Republicans, however, did support his nomination, according to The RTD. Gov. McDonnell told reporters Monday that qualifications, not sexual orientation, should be the basis for nominating a judge.
"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 person's skill, ability, fairness, judicial temperament, " the governor said at an unrelated event. "None of those things should be factors in whether or not you put somebody on the bench. It's only their ability to practice law and mete out fair decisions."
Marshall, according to The Huffington Post, opposed the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank’s decision last year to fly a rainbow flag outside its building as a symbol work place equality, saying that the flag “"undermines the American economy." He has previously been quoted as calling homosexuality a “disordered behavior.”
Thorne-Begland is a former Naval aviator who was honorably discharged after coming out on Nightline in the 1990s.
* The meticulously planned Maryland special session to raise income taxes and prevent the severe budget cuts from the doomsday budget from going into effect faced some challenges Monday after several Democrats proposed to raise the sales tax instead.
According to The Baltimore Sun, the defiance came from the Montgomery delegation, which felt that the state was relying too heavily on its wealthy constituents.
The proposal stands little chance of passage, but highlights the difficulty of having a consensus on a tax increase.
The opening day of the special session and preliminary vote indicated that Thomas V. Mike Miller, according to The Sun, is likely to hold his Democratic caucus to the deal he crafted with House Speaker Michael E. Busch and O'Malley over the past several weeks.
Miller also proposed an amendment that would require lawmakers to focus solely on the budget if a spending plan was not adopted by the 82nd day of each regular 90-day session.
* The Ward 5 council special election is today. Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Go to dcboee.org for more information about the election and to find you polling place.
The Post has a last look at the Ward 5 election to replace disgraced councilman Harry Thomas Jr.
Also on Tuesday, the full D.C. council will meet to vote on a spending plan.
On Monday, D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown finalized his budget priorities Monday night, making affordable housing a key part of his plan, according to The Post.
Brown ruled out higher taxes and fees in the upcoming city budget but said he plans to spend more than $20 million on affordable housing. He also plans to spend millions of dollars renovating several middle schools.
* Slate’s Matt Yglesias briefly recaps why he thinks D.C. needs skyscrapers
Still, I'm a believer that we ought to bring skyscrapers to the city for two main reasons. One is that transit availability is very lumpy. Extra density away from those key nodes in the transportation system doesn't do a great job of compensating for a lack of density in the core of the core. The other is simply that logistically the more density you rezone for when you rezone, the fewer discrete places need to be rezoned.:
* At Virginia’s marathon General Assembly meeting Monday, lawmakers rejected more than half of Gov. McDonnell’s 88 amendments to the state’s two year, $85 billion spending plan.
In a statement, according to The Virginian-Pilot,” McDonnell said he was dismayed "that the General Assembly also rejected several important amendments that would have helped with our ongoing effort to control state spending and make state government more efficient and effective,"