This past Tuesday, the Virginia General Assembly voted to confirm Richmond General District Court Judge Tracy Thorne-Begland, Virginia's first out gay judge, to the bench. Thorne-Begland has been serving on the bench since June of last year, due to a temporary appointment by the court, after the Republican-led House of Delegates scuttled his nomination in May 2012. After this latest session, Thorne-Begland received 66 votes in the 100-member House of Delegates, and 28 in the 40-member Senate, confirming him for a six-year term.
Thorne-Begland's nomination was initially scuttled after conservative lawmaker Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William Co.), initiated a campaign against Thorne-Begland, claiming his sexual orientation and longtime relationship with his partner would prevent him from upholding Virginia law, which bans recognition of same-sex relationships. When asked about his objections to Thorne-Begland's nomination, Marshall claimed that Begland was “an aggressive activist for the pro-homosexual agenda.” Despite the lack of any literal agenda, Marshall was backed by several of his colleagues, as well as the Family Foundation of Virginia. The Foundation cited many reason for their disapproval, noting that until they can be assured that "he will not put his obvious political agenda ahead of the law," then they would not approve him.
Despite these actions, Judge Thorne-Begland was vindicated with this latest vote. This marks a continued trend in the commonwealth. Last year, when Delegate Marshall introduced a bill that would ban gay individuals from serving in the Virginia National Guard, it was killed almost immediately by committee. On National Pride Day last year, the Federal Reserve Building downtown flew the official rainbow flag in recognition. Those events, as well as this latest confirmation, count as progress. As long as the right voices keep speaking up, this progress will continue.