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Marriage and more

The momentous events of 2013 hit close to home, as marriage equality arrived in Maryland and Delaware. But last year wasn’t all about marriage. It was a big year for Democrats in Virginia and a lesbian lawmaker announced a bid for Maryland governor.

Here’s a look at the top 10 local news stories of 2013 as chosen by Blade editorial staffers.

 

#1 Marriage equality comes to Md., Del.

 

Clayton Zook, Tracy Staples, Wayne MacKenzie, gay news, Washington Blade, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, Maryland, Tilghman Island

Marriage equality expanded throughout the mid-Atlantic in 2013 with Maryland and Delaware joining D.C. in allowing same-sex couples to wed. Clayton Zook and Wayne MacKenzie tied the knot on New Year’s Day on Tilghman Island. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Maryland and Delaware were among the states in which same-sex couples began to legally marry in 2013.

Seven same-sex couples married at Baltimore City Hall on Jan. 1 shortly after Maryland’s same-sex marriage law took effect in a ceremony that Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake officiated. They include long-time mayoral aide James Scales and his partner, William Tasker.

“New Year’s Day will have a new meaning for the hundreds — if not thousands — of couples who will finally have the right to marry the person they love,” said Rawlings-Blake.

More than half a dozen same-sex couples exchanged vows at the Black Walnut Point Inn on Tilghman Island in Talbot County on Jan. 1. These include innkeepers Tracy Staples and Bob Zuber who tied the knot almost immediately after the law took effect at midnight.

“I’m very proud of Maryland,” Michelle Miller of Stevensville in Queen Anne’s County told the Washington Blade on Jan. 1 after she married Nora Clouse at the Black Walnut Point Inn.

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell on May 7 signed his state’s same-sex marriage bill into law.

State Sen. Karen Peterson (D-Stanton) came out as a lesbian on the floor of the state Senate while she and her colleagues debated the measure. The New Castle County Democrat and her partner of more than 20 years, Vikki Bandy, on July 1 became the state’s first legally married same-sex couple when the couple converted their civil union into a marriage during a ceremony that New Castle County Clerk of the Peace Ken Boulden officiated.

“It’s exciting, both historically and personally,” Peterson told reporters after she and Bandy exchanged vows inside the New Castle County Clerk of the Peace’s office in Wilmington. “I never thought in our lifetimes we would be getting married.”

Boulden later on July 1 also officiated Joseph Daigle, II, and Daniel Cote’s wedding in Wilmington that Attorney General Beau Biden, New Castle County Executive Tom Gordon and other local and state officials attended.

“Today we are witnesses to a historic event for Delaware and for our community and quite frankly our future,” said Biden.

Delaware Family Policy Council President Nicole Theis and Rev. Leonard Klein of the Diocese of Wilmington are among those who testified against the same-sex marriage bill. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church on July 1 protested the law outside the New Castle County Clerk of the Peace’s office in Wilmington and at other locations throughout the state.

State Rep. Mike Ramone (R-Middle Run Valley) is the only Republican lawmaker who co-sponsored the measure. John Fluharty, executive director of the Delaware Republican Party, on March 15 came out during an exclusive interview with the Blade at an Equality Delaware fundraiser in Wilmington.

“I’m here this evening because I support marriage equality,” said Fluharty. “It’s an issue that’s of personal importance for me as a gay man.”

 

#2 McAuliffe elected Va. governor

 

Washington Blade, Terry McAuliffe

Terry McAuliffe is Virginia’s next governor after a campaign that prominently featured gay issues. (Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman)

Former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe on Nov. 6 defeated Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in the commonwealth’s gubernatorial race.

McAuliffe has repeatedly said his first executive order as governor will be to ban discrimination against LGBT state employees. The former DNC chair in February also endorsed marriage rights for same-sex couples.

State Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk) easily defeated Chesapeake minister E.W. Jackson in the state’s lieutenant gubernatorial race. The State Board of Elections on Nov. 25 officially certified state Sen. Mark Herring (D-Loudoun County) as the winner of the race to succeed Cuccinelli as attorney general, but state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) requested a recount because he lost to his Democratic rival by only 165 votes.

Cuccinelli highlighted his opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples during two debates against McAuliffe that took place in Hot Springs and McLean in July and September respectively. LGBT rights advocates also blasted the outgoing attorney general for appealing a federal appellate court’s March ruling that found Virginia’s sodomy law unconstitutional.

Jackson faced persistent criticism during the campaign over his previous comments that equated gay men to pedophiles and “very sick people.”

“Without exception, the Democratic candidates for statewide office offered unflinching support for marriage equality, a welcoming business climate and respect for a woman’s right to choose,” said gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) after the election. “The people of Virginia aligned themselves with McAuliffe’s and Northam’s vision of an inclusive, forward moving commonwealth.”

 

 

#3 Va. lawmakers confirm gay judge

 

Virginia lawmakers on Jan. 15 confirmed gay Richmond Circuit Court Judge Tracy Thorne-Begland’s judgeship.

The Virginia House of Delegates in May 2012 blocked the former prosecutor’s nomination to the Richmond General Court after state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) alleged he misrepresented himself when he failed to disclose his sexual orientation when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in the late 1980s.

Thorne-Begland in 1992 publicly discussed his sexual orientation during an interview on ABC’s “Nightline.” He unsuccessfully challenged his discharge from the U.S. Navy under the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy then-President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1993.

Thorne-Begland is also a former Equality Virginia board member.

“Equality Virginia is pleased that the House of Delegates could see that Thorne-Begland is a qualified candidate with integrity and a long history of public service,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish in a statement after lawmakers approved Thorne-Begland’s judgeship. “Thorne-Begland has served his country and his city with honor and unquestioned competence first as a Navy pilot and then as a prosecutor.”

Thorne-Begland is Virginia’s first openly gay judge.

 

 #4 10 percent of D.C. residents are gay: report

 

gay news, Washington Blade, National Equality March

Gallup says that 10 percent of D.C. residents are gay. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A report released in February by the Gallup polling organization showed that the District of Columbia has the highest percentage of self-identified LGBT residents in the nation in comparison to the 50 states.

Ten percent of 493 D.C. residents who responded to Gallup’s daily tracking polls between June 1 and Dec. 30, 2012 identified themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according to the report. By comparison, 3.3 percent of a sample of 4,195 Maryland residents and 2.9 percent of a sample of 6,323 Virginians identified themselves as LGBT.

The report did not compare D.C. to other cities. Gary Gates of the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, which studies LGBT related demographics, told the Blade the Gallop statistics appeared to be a more accurate snapshot of the country’s LGBT population than previous studies.

 

#5 Mizeur runs for governor in Md.

 

Heather Mizeur, Delman Coates, Montgomery County, Silver Spring, Maryland, Maryland House of Delegates, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Del. Heather Mizeur is seeking to succeed Gov. Martin O’Malley. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Maryland state Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) on July 16 officially entered the 2014 gubernatorial campaign.

“I’m running for governor because I love this state and I see limitless possibilities on what we can accomplish together,” the Montgomery County Democrat told the Washington Blade before she announced her candidacy. “There are great challenges facing us and also incredible opportunities.”

Mizeur last month raised eyebrows when she tapped Rev. Delman Coates of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton as her running mate. The Prince George’s County pastor in 2012 emerged as one of the most prominent supporters of Maryland’s same-sex marriage law that voters approved in a referendum.

“I have stood up for justice,” said Coates at a Nov. 14 campaign event during which Mizeur officially introduced him as her running mate. “I stand before you today not driven by professional or personal ambition, but by a calling to bring hope to others when they need it the most.”

Mizeur will face Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Attorney General Doug Gansler in the state Democratic primary in June. She could become the country’s first openly gay governor if Maryland voters elect her to succeed Martin O’Malley.

“Diversity is enormously important,” Mizeur told the Blade in July. “Not simply to have a gay governor, but to have a governor who can represent the voices of people in communities that have not always had a voice in the process.”

 

#6 Rash of violent incidents in June

 

Miles DeNiro, Manny & Olga's, hate crime, gay news, Washington Blade

Drag performer Miles Denaro was beaten and dragged by the hair by two women at the Manny & Olga’s pizzeria in June. (Screen capture)

Four transgender women, a gay man dressed in drag, and a lesbian were victims of separate violent attacks, including a murder, during the last two weeks of June, prompting LGBT activists to call a “community response” meeting to address the incidents.

Lesbian Malika Stover, 35, of Southeast D.C., was shot to death on June 22 following what police said was an argument with a neighbor that did not appear to be linked to her sexual orientation.

But transgender activist Earline Budd, who organized the meeting, said Stover’s slaying stunned people in the LGBT community who knew her.

“This is really putting all of us on edge,” she said. “You’re seeing all of these incidents happening in such a short period of time.”

Police arrested a 23-year-old male suspect for allegedly stabbing transgender woman Bree Wallace, 29, multiple times on June 21 in an abandoned house in Southeast D.C. Police said the incident stemmed from a dispute and did not appear to be a hate crime. In another incident on June 23, gay male drag performer Miles Denaro was beaten and dragged by the hair by two women at the Manny & Olga’s pizzeria near 14th and U streets, N.W. in an incident that was captured on video and posted on the Internet. The two women were arrested and pleaded guilty to a charge simple assault.

 

#7 Trans birth certificate bill hailed  

 

Vincent Gray, JaParker Deoni Jones, David Grosso, Ruby Corado, Rick Rosendall, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray signed a bill in August enabling trans people to change their birth certificates. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A bill signed into law by D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray in August that removes obstacles to the process of enabling transgender people to change their birth certificates to reflect their new gender has been hailed as a groundbreaking measure.

Among other things, the new law repealed a provision in an existing law that required transgender individuals to undergo gender reassignment surgery as a condition for obtaining a new birth certificate. Transgender advocates said the surgery was too expensive for many people and medically hazardous to others.

The new law is named the JaParker Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Amendment Act of 2013 in honor of a transgender woman murdered near her home in 2012.

Another key provision in the law requires the D.C. Registrar to issue a new birth certificate designating a new gender for “any individual who provides a written request and a signed statement from a licensed healthcare provider that the individual has undergone a gender transition.”

 

 

#8 T.H.E. declares bankruptcy

 

Earline Budd, gay news, Washington Blade

Earline Budd called on the city to investigate T.H.E.’s management practices. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Transgender Health Empowerment, D.C.’s leading transgender services and advocacy organization for nearly 10 years, declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy on July 7. A short time later it discontinued all of its transgender-related programs.

The bankruptcy filing came after the D.C. Department of Health abruptly cut off its funding for T.H.E. when it learned that the IRS placed liens on the organization for its failure to pay more than $260,000 in employee withholding taxes over a period of at least three years. The bankruptcy filing shows that T.H.E.’s total debt comes to more than $560,000.

During a bankruptcy trustee’s hearing in August, T.H.E. executive director Anthony Hall said the group’s only source of income at the time of the hearing was a city grant calling for the organization to operate a non-LGBT related temporary housing facility for crime victims.

Longtime transgender activist Earline Budd, a former T.H.E. employee and one of its founders, has called on the city to investigate the group’s management practices to determine the cause of its financial problems.

 

 

#9 Mautner merges with Whitman-Walker

 

Don Blanchon, Whitman-Walker Health, gay news, Washington Blade

Whitman-Walker CEO Don Blanchon said Whitman-Walker had been looking for ways to expand its services to women. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Mautner Project, a national lesbian health organization based in Washington, D.C. since its founding in 1990, became an arm of D.C.’s Whitman-Walker Health in 2013 in what leaders of both groups called an “historic collaboration.”

In a joint statement released in June, the two organizations said the arrangement would bring the Mautner Project’s programs and staff under the “umbrella” of Whitman-Walker, an LGBT community health care provider founded in 1978.

Leslie Calman, Mautner Project’s executive director at the time the merger was announced, said the joining of the two groups would allow Mautner to “offer more critical services to a greater number of women who need those services throughout the region. It’s a natural fit.”

Whitman-Walker CEO Don Blanchon said Whitman-Walker had been looking for ways to expand its services to women. He said the Mautner Project’s “programs and reach within their community will help us fulfill that mission.”

Calman said that in addition to continuing its services for lesbians with serious illnesses such as cancer, the Mautner programs at Whitman-Walker would also continue various illness prevention programs such as cancer screening, smoking cessation and obesity reduction.

 

 

#10 Carson steps down as Hopkins speaker

 

Ben Carson, Values Voter Summit, Washington Blade, gay news

Ben Carson compared LGBT activism to bestiality and pedophilia. (Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman).

A rising star in the Republican Party stirred controversy by comparing LGBT activism to bestiality and pedophilia, leading him to give up his role as commencement speaker at John Hopkins University.

The former neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins made the remarks during an appearance on Fox News’ Sean Hannity when expressing his opposition to legalizing same-sex marriage.

“And no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association,) be they people who believe in bestiality — it doesn’t matter what they are — they don’t get to change the definition” of marriage, Carson said.

Carson’s remarks invoked the ire of students at John Hopkins University, where he was selected to speak as commencement speaker. The organization Media Matters asserted a majority of the graduating class, or around 700 students, called for his ouster. Although sources initially said Carson wouldn’t relinquish his speaking role at commencement, Carson eventually indicated he would acquiesce to students’ desires and step down as speaker.

But Carson went on to other public appearances, including one later in the year at a venue closer in tune with his views. Carson was among the speakers the anti-gay Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit, where he articulated his opposition to marriage equality.

“We need to recognize that God created the family structure for a reason and marriage is a sacred institution from God himself, and there is no reason that man needs to change the definition of marriage,” Carson said.

02
Jan
2014

Ebbin, Fisette on ‘short list’ for U.S. House seat in Northern Va.

Adam Ebbin, Jay FIsette, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

Virginia State Sen. Adam Ebbin (left) and Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette are possible candidates for Congress. (Washington Blade file photos. Photo of Ebbin by Michael K. Lavers; photo of Fisette by Jeff Surprenant)

Political insiders in Northern Virginia have placed two openly gay elected officials near the top of a list of at least a dozen possible candidates considered qualified to run for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), who announced he’s not running for re-election this year.

Virginia State Sen. Adam Ebbin, whose district includes parts of the City of Alexandria and parts of Arlington and Fairfax counties; and Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette, who represents the entire county, are well known and have longstanding ties to the 8th Congressional District, according to people familiar with the district.

Ebbin and Fisette are both Democrats. The 8th District, which Moran has represented for more than 20 years, is a Democratic stronghold. Virtually all political observers say the candidate that wins the Democratic primary scheduled for June 10 is almost certain to win the general election in November.

“The 8th District is a highly educated, progressive, engaged district that has embraced LGBT equality for years,” said Joshua Israel, former president of Virginia Partisans, a statewide LGBT Democratic group that recently changed its name to Lesbian and Gay Democrats of Virginia.

Israel says he knows most of the other candidates considering entering the race and all of them are strong supporters of LGBT rights, just as Moran has been a staunch ally of the LGBT community during his tenure as a congressman.

“The field will no doubt be an embarrassment of riches,” he said.

Fisette became the first known openly gay candidate to win election to public office in Virginia in 1997, when he won his race for a seat on the Arlington County Board, which serves as the county’s legislative body. He has won re-election four times since then by wide margins, with his latest electoral victory in 2013.

Fisette’s colleagues elected him chair of the five-member board in 2001, 2005, 2010, and again this year under a system in which the board rotates its leadership posts every year.

Ebbin became the first openly gay candidate to win election to the Virginia General Assembly when he won his race for a seat in the House of Delegates in 2003 in a district in Alexandria, which is his home base. He won re-election to the seat in 2007.

When a seat in the 30th State Senate district came open in 2011 Ebbin tossed his hat in the ring and won the Democratic primary in a hotly contested, three-candidate race by a three-point margin. He won the general election against a Republican opponent by a margin of 64.4 percent to 35.4 percent.

Political observers note that Ebbin is the only potential candidate for the 8th District congressional seat who represents parts of Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax, giving him an advantage in the June primary should he enter the race.

“With the 2014 legislative session just beginning, I am working hard every day for the people of the 30th District,” Ebbin said in a statement released last week. “I am honored that people think I’d make a good congressman, and I will give it the serious consideration it deserves,” he said. “I hope to have more to say about this in the future.”

Ebbin told the Blade on Monday that a report posted on Twitter by Virginia political blogger Ben Tribbett incorrectly claimed Ebbin announced his candidacy for the congressional seat at a Jan. 18 meeting of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

“I don’t know why he tweeted that,” said Ebbin. “I didn’t make an announcement.”

Although Ebbin told the Blade he isn’t ready to announce his decision on whether or not to run, Charlie Conrad, vice chair of elections for Lesbian and Gay Democrats of Virginia said “the word is out” that Ebbin plans to run for the congressional seat.

“I’m supporting Adam,” he said. “He is very popular and very well respected.”

Fisette, who couldn’t immediately be reached for comment, had not made a public statement about whether he was considering running for the congressional seat as of early this week.

A spokesperson for the Virginia election board said that if the Democratic Party decides to hold a primary, as expected, rather than a caucus to nominate a candidate for the seat, candidates must file petitions with 1,000 valid signatures by March 27 to gain placement on the June 10 ballot.

Other potential Democratic candidates for the 8th District seat mentioned by political insiders  include Alexandria Mayor William Euille and former Alexandria Mayor Kerry Donley; Del. Charniele Herring (Alexandria); Del. Patrick Hope (Arlington); Del. K. Robert Krupicka Jr. (Alexandria); Del. Alfonso Lopez (Arlington); Fairfax Board of Supervisors member Jeff McKay; Del. Mark Sickles (Fairfax); and Del. Scott Surovell (Fairfax).

Surovell and Krupicka have sponsored bills in the House of Delegates in support of same-sex marriage rights. Hope has proposed legislation to ban “ex-gay” therapy for minors.

Chesterfield resident Maggie Sacra, the current chair of Lesbian and Gay Democrats of Virginia, which recently became an official arm of the Virginia Democratic Party, said the organization can no longer endorse candidates in a primary under party rules.

Thus the state’s largest LGBT Democratic group won’t be able to endorse Ebbin or Fisette should they decide to run in the primary. Sacra said the group nevertheless will be “very active” in the primary campaign by reaching out to all of the Democratic candidates to discuss their positions on LGBT issues and inform them of the issues of concern to the LGBT community.

“I think we will have a good group of candidates,” she said. “All are pro-equality.”

She added, “It would be a great thing for the state if we were to get an openly gay congressman,” noting that such a development would be an historic first in the South.

Israel, who lives in Arlington, said the LGBT vote could be a key factor in the primary if a large number of candidates enter the race.

“The biggest question is going to be how many people run and who is able to turn out a plurality of their supporters,” he said. “Given the number of potential candidates considering this race, one candidate with a particularly committed base of support could become a U.S. representative for decades to come.”

In August 2003, Fisette announced he would run against Moran in the 2004 Democratic primary at a time when Moran came under fire for what political observers called a series of widely reported “missteps.” Among other things, fellow Democrats criticized him for suggesting that the Jewish lobby was responsible for persuading President George W. Bush to start the Iraq war.

“Jim deserves credit for his past work, but it’s time to move forward,” the Free Republic blog quoted Fisette as saying at the time. “I’m convinced that there’s an overwhelming number of people looking for a change.”

But less than two weeks later, Fisette changed his mind and withdrew from the race, saying that while he had differences with Moran he agreed with the congressman on most issues and didn’t want to engage in a negative campaign.

“He made the very smart decision not to run,” said Nick Benton, the gay editor and publisher of the Falls Church News-Press and an outspoken advocate of LGBT rights. “It would have been very destructive of his future ambitions to run.” Benton has been a longtime supporter of Moran.

Moran defeated another primary challenger who ran against him in 2004 by a wide margin.

As of early this week, the only candidate to officially declare his candidacy for the 8th District congressional seat was Bruce Shuttleworth, a retired Navy fighter pilot and marketing executive.

“I have roomed with at least two gay midshipmen and I will be the loudest voice in the land for equal rights for all minorities to include our transgender brothers and sisters who remain outside a proper embrace,” he said in a declaration of candidacy statement.

Shuttleworth ran against and lost to Moran by a wide margin in the 2012 Democratic primary.

21
Jan
2014

BREAKING: Va. House of Delegates confirms gay judge

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(Photo via Wikimedia)

The Virginia House of Delegates on Tuesday voted 66-28 to approve gay interim Richmond Circuit Court Judge Tracy Thorne-Begland’s judgeship.

“Equality Virginia is pleased that the House of Delegates could see that Thorne-Begland is a qualified candidate with integrity and a long history of public service,” Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish said in a statement. “Thorne-Begland has served his country and his city with honor and unquestioned competence first as a Navy pilot and then as a prosecutor.”

The vote took place after members of the General Assembly Committee of Judicial Appointments on Monday certified Thorne-Begland and more than 40 other judicial nominees.

The House of Delegates last May blocked Thorne-Begland’s nomination to the Richmond General Court after state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) alleged he misrepresented himself when he failed to disclose his sexual orientation when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in the late 1980s. (He is among the 28 delegates who voted against Thorne-Begland’s election.)

Thorne-Begland, who came out during 1992 “Nightline” interview in which he criticized the Pentagon’s ban on gay servicemembers, received an honorable discharge two years later.

The Richmond General Court in June appointed Thorne-Begland on an interim basis because lawmakers failed to fill the vacancy, but state Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) questioned his previous activism during the General Assembly Committee of Judicial Appointments hearing.

“There was a lot of confusion last year about how your oath and your activism were both present or not present or either or how one tread upon the other—or didn’t,” Gilbert said. “That’s one of the reasons I didn’t vote in your previous election because those questions were not answered for me and I feel like they’ve been satisfactorily answered for me.”

Thorne-Begland responded.

“When I think of an activist, I think of someone—the tree hugger who chains themselves to a tree in the redwood forest, someone who chains themselves to a nuclear facility, wants it shut down or someone who conducts sit-ins in the halls of this legislature or on the steps of the capitol as we saw last year,” he said, as captured by Equality Virginia in a video it posted online. “Those are individuals who are willing to advance their cause through acts of civil disobedience. They will violate the law, violate regulations, perhaps violate their oath. I didn’t take those actions. There were members of the armed forces who spoke up against ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ wore their uniform and chained themselves to the White House fence. That is an act of civil disobedience. It’s a violation of order and it’s a violation of your oath as an officer. I understand that people may see what I did as activism, but you can make darn sure that I did not take the steps that I did without reading the regulations, without consulting lawyers and making sure that I was not just following the letter of the law but the spirit of the law to say this policy hurts. It hurts good people and we’re not here to litigate the propriety of the military’s old policy… of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ or its repeal, but I want you to understand that that’s why I did what I did. I did it within the framework of the rules that had been laid to me.”

Thorne-Begland, who is also a former Equality Virginia board member, also discussed his involvement with the LGBT advocacy group.

“Since I left the military, I’ve worked with Equality Virginia and I advocated for such radical things as expanding the right to health care for someone to be able to get insurance for their partner,” he said. “I’m not going to lie and say that I don’t one day want the opportunity to marry my partner. We married 15 years ago in an Episcopal church across the street from our house. I’d like that to happen, but that’s not my role as a judge. I will well and dutifully follow the rules, the laws and the regulations. I know that when I put on a black robe and even when I take that robe off and go home that I am held to a different standard of an everyday citizen.”

Parrish stressed the House of Delegates’ initial vote against Thorne-Begland’s nomination “made embarrassing national headlines.”

“We’re glad the House of Delegates took a second look at his candidacy and this time the decision was based on his qualifications and not on who he is or who he loves,” he said. “While Thorne-Begland has been given another opportunity, without employment protections, most Virginians do not get a second chance at their jobs after being fired or not hired because of their sexual orientation.”

15
Jan
2013

Year in review: Va. prosecutor becomes state’s first gay jurist

A Richmond prosecutor in June became Virginia’s first openly gay judge.

The Richmond Circuit Court approved the nomination of Tracy Thorne-Begland, chief deputy commonwealth attorney for the city of Richmond, nearly a month after members of the House of Delegates rejected it.

“I am humbled by the Circuit Court’s decision,” Thorne-Begland said in a statement. “I look forward to serving the citizens of the city of Richmond as a jurist, and over the coming months I hope that my service provides comfort to all Virginians that I remain committed to the faithful application of the laws and constitutions of Virginia and the United States of America.”

Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) stressed before the May 15 vote in the House of Delegates that Thorne-Begland, who is a former Navy pilot, “misrepresented” himself when he failed to disclose his sexual orientation when he enlisted in 1992. State Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico,) who sponsored his nomination in the state Senate, applauded the Circuit Court judges for recognizing “Mr. Thorne-Begland’s skill, qualifications and competency and putting aside bigotry, prejudice and false excuses” in a statement after they approved his nomination.

Equality Virginia, state Sen. A. Donald McEachin and Gov. Bob McDonnell also applauded Thorne-Begland’s appointment. Former Attorney General Richard Cullen and former Virginia Bar Association President James Meath are among those who backed his nomination.

The Richmond Circuit Court had the authority to appoint Thorne-Begland on an interim basis because lawmakers did not fill the vacancy. Lawmakers could rescind the temporary appointment once they reconvene next month.

27
Dec
2012