12 INVESTIGATES: Thorne-Begland up for vote again

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The debate over Virginia's first openly gay judge could start all over again.

The General Assembly session begins Wednesday and Tracy Thorne-Begland's seat on the bench is up for a vote next week.

Thorne-Begland has donned the black robe since July.

The circuit court judges in Richmond appointed him to the seat, after his term was not approved by the General Assembly. Lawmakers will have to weigh in again.

Last time around, Thorne-Begland's nomination to the Richmond General District Court was one of the most divisive votes of the year - so much so, 10 delegates claimed a conflict of interest and 26 more chose not to vote at all.

In the end, Thorne-Begland was rejected.

Richmond's top prosecutor ripped the House of Delegates.

Delegate Bob Marshall lead the charge against the nomination.

"The applicant has represented himself to be a married man, which we don't recognize," said Marshall.

In the 90's, Thorne-Begland was a Navy pilot who made national news for coming out as gay. At the time, that went against military policy.

Republican lawmakers said they took issue with his activist history.

Since the General Assembly failed to fill the seat, Richmond's judges could - and they appointed Thorne-Begland anyway.

Republican Senator Dick Black is going after that decision this year. He's proposed a bill that would ban circuit court judges from appointing a person who the General Assembly failed to elect.

The terms for Thorne-Begland and eight other appointed judges across Virginia expire this month.

He and the other judges will be interviewed next Monday - in public - by the House and Senate courts and justice committees. Members will decide if the candidates are qualified.

If the committees approve Thorne-Begland, the House will vote on his judgeship next Tuesday.

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