Democratic politicians in Virginia are weighing up their options in the wake of the general assembly’s vote to block the appointment of the state’s first openly gay judge.
Senior Democrats expressed their dismay and outrage at the vote in the House of Delegates to reject a prominent local prosecutor, Tracy Thorne-Begland, for a vacancy on the Richmond circuit court. The decision instantly engulfed Virginia in the toxic fumes of the gay marriage debate sweeping America.
The vote followed a heated debate in which Republican delegates accused Thorne-Begland of having violated military rules by coming out as gay while serving in the navy 20 years ago.
Delegates voted 33 to 31 in favour of his appointment to the bench, but that fell short of the majority of 51 votes needed for ratification. Ten delegates abstained, and 26 stayed at home.
Jennifer McClellan, the Democratic delegate for the area of Richmond in which Thorne-Begland lives, said that his rejection was not the end of the struggle. “One day the LBGT community will be represented on the bench in Virginia, and that’s a fight worth having,” she said.
There is no immediate way that Tuesday’s vote can be reconsidered by the House of Delegates, which has now adjourned for the rest of the year. It would be possible to renominate Thorne-Begland for the judgeship next January, when the assembly reconvenes, but that would be dependent on his own wishes, which he has not yet articulated. His only statement on the matter is that he is “looking forward to continuing to serve the citizens of the city of Richmond and the great commonwealth of Virginia”.
The block on the appointment of Thorne-Begland, 45, has thrown Virginia into the centre of the debate about the legal status of gay and lesbian Americans. Last week Barack Obama said that he supported same-sex marriage, making his
This article originally appeared on: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/16/virginia-gay-rights-rejects-judge?newsfeed=true