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Va. House Confirms State’s First Openly Gay Judge

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Credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

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RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia’s House of Delegates voted Tuesday to confirm Tracy Thorne-Begland as the state’s first openly gay jurist, resolving a simmering social issue that last spring opened not only a deep partisan rift, but also a division among Republicans.

The House — with 68 GOP members — voted 66-28 with one abstention to confirm Thorne-Begland, a former Navy pilot who left the military after disclosing his sexual orientation and became a prosecutor for a six-year term in Richmond General District Court.

Also Tuesday, Thorne-Begland won easy confirmation with 28 votes in his favor in the state Senate, where Democrats and Republicans hold 20 seats apiece.

On May 12, in a vote taken at 1:13 a.m. at the end of a contentious 13-hour special session, Thorne-Begland fell 18 votes short of the necessary majority of 51 in the House.

Thirty-one delegates cast outright votes against him, and 36 cast abstention votes or briefly left their desks for Thorne-Begland’s vote.

On Monday, during 40 minutes of questioning before a panel of senators and delegates vetting judicial nominees, Thorne-Begland addressed criticisms raised last year and won commitments of support from lawmakers who opposed him or did not vote last spring.

Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, said he was impressed at Thorne-Begland’s answers about his exit from the Navy, where he was honorably discharged, and was confident that he would not be a judicial activist in hearing traffic offenses and minor crimes. In May, Gilbert voted on every other judge the House considered except Thorne-Begland.

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(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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