House votes down gay prosecutor to the bench - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

House votes down gay prosecutor to the bench

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Tracy Thorne-Begland Tracy Thorne-Begland
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

After hours of debate and an early morning vote, lawmakers say no to appointing an openly gay prosecutor to the bench.

This vote puts Virginia back in the spotlight when it comes to gay rights in America and a battleground state for the presidential election.

Tracy Thorne-Begland's 12 years of experience as a prosecutor just couldn't overshadow recent controversy about his sexual preference to get him the votes needed to serve on the bench as the state's first openly gay judge.

After the votes were tallied there were 33 votes for yes and 31 votes for no, and all the no's are from Republicans. 10 delegates withheld their votes while 26 didn't vote at all.

Thorne-Begland didn't get the 51 votes needed to become a judge.

Delegates say Thorne-Begland's very public dismissal from the military caused controversy; he went on national television to declare his sexual preference. At the time, it violated the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, making it illegal for an openly gay person to serve in the armed forces.

The vote against him comes a week after North Carolina voted to ban same sex marriage. You'll also remember last week, President Obama voiced his support for gay marriage.

Thorne-Begland made a statement after the vote, telling the Times-Dispatch: "I look forward to continuing to serve the citizens of the city of Richmond and the great Commonwealth of Virginia."

Thorne-Begland is the only candidate among the more than three dozen judicial nominees not to be approved by the bench.

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