Va. House Confirms First Gay Judge

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP / Richmond Times-Dispatch
    Tracy Thorne-Beglan is seen in a Dec. 28, 2005 photo. (AP Photo, Alexa Welch-Edlund/Richmond Times-Dispatch)

    Virginia's House of Delegates voted Tuesday to confirm Tracy Thorne-Begland as the state's first openly gay judge, resolving a simmering social issue that last spring opened not only a deep partisan rift, but also a division among Republicans.

    The House - with 68 GOP members - voted 66-28 with one abstention to confirm Thorne-Begland, a former Navy pilot who left the military after disclosing his sexual orientation and became a prosecutor for a six-year term in Richmond General District Court.

    Also Tuesday, Thorne-Begland won easy confirmation with 28 votes in his favor in the state Senate, where Democrats and Republicans hold 20 seats apiece.

    On May 12, in a vote taken at 1:13 a.m. at the end of a contentious 13-hour special session, Thorne-Begland fell 18 votes short of the necessary majority of 51 in the House.

    Thirty-one delegates cast outright votes against him, and 36 cast abstention votes or briefly left their desks for Thorne-Begland's vote.

    On Monday, during 40 minutes of questioning before a panel of senators and delegates vetting judicial nominees, Thorne-Begland addressed criticisms raised last year and won commitments of support from lawmakers who opposed him or did not vote last spring.

    Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, said he was impressed at Thorne-Begland's answers about his exit from the Navy, where he was honorably discharged, and was confident that he would not be a judicial activist in hearing traffic offenses and minor crimes. In May, Gilbert voted on every other judge the House considered except Thorne-Begland.