Vote against openly gay judicial nominee another black eye for Virginia

Early this morning – around 1:30 AM – in a vote with almost a third of the members absent, the House of Delegates rejected the judicial nomination of Tracy Thorne-Begland to serve as a judge on the General District Court in the 13th judicial district in Richmond. Thorne-Begland, who is openly gay, is a Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney in the state capital.

Thorne-Begland, a veteran prosecutor and Navy veteran, lost the vote largely because of his record as a gay activist and the charge that his advocacy against the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy – which led to his honorable discharge from the Navy – made him unfit to serve. The charge against Thorne-Begland was led by Loudoun Delegate and U.S. Senate candidate Bob Marshall.

Democrats have been quick to accuse Republicans of voting against Thorne-Begland because he’s openly gay and has been vocal about his rights.

I can’t blame them, because that’s basically what happened. Bob Marshall characterized Thorne-Behland as a “homosexual activist” and cited his history of “aggressive” activism on behalf of the gay agenda.

All of that is clearly laid out in Marshall’s press release, which you can read here. But that’s not where Marshall left off – not only is Thorne-Begland a homosexual activist, he’s also a potential judicial activist and oath breaker. Marshall goes on to impugn Thorne-Begland’s integrity, questioning whether he could swear an oath to uphold the Virginia Constitution – a document that bars gay marriage – because of past advocacy against the gay marriage ban.

The vote last night was wrong. We let irrelevant issues cloud the real question – whether Thorne-Begland was qualified and would be competent in doing the job of a General District Court judge – with conjecture and character-assassination. Those are the only questions that matter, and we ignored them by bringing his past activism into play, especially when it would have little impact on the job.

The fact that Thorne-Begland was discharged from the Navy for being gay is irrelevant.  He believed that his rights were being trampled upon and spoke up, going to court to defend them. There is nothing wrong with that.  This is the exact same behavior we Republicans praised when Dick Heller and the other second amendment activists filed suit to overturn DC’s unconstitutional gun laws.  We praise activism in defense of rights, especially where someone gives up so much for the fight.  In the Heller case, Dick Heller didn’t have to get arrested or lose his job – he simply had to apply for a permit and be denied.  Here, Thorne-Begland gave up his Navy career to fight for something he believed in.  How can we condemn that, especially when the Navy didn’t?  He wasn’t brought up on charges.  He wasn’t court-martialed. He was given an honorable discharge and he left the service. If they Navy didn’t punish him, we have no need to.

The argument that Marshall makes that questions Thorne-Begland’s integrity and claims he couldn’t take the oath to support the Virginia Constitution is, quite frankly, disgusting.  Not only has Thorne-Begland already taken that oath as an attorney and in his official capacity as a deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney, there is nothing in his background to indicate he has ever violated it.  Advocacy against laws one disagrees with isn’t violating an oath – it’s something inherently American and something we Republicans have long valued.

But if Marshall thinks that’s a fair argument, why don’t we flip this one around? How can Bob Marshall be a Delegate in Virginia and a candidate for U.S. Senate? He’s taken an oath to support the U.S. Constitution – a document that protects abortion rights, according to the Supreme Court.  Wouldn’t his past record as a pro-life activist raise questions about whether he could support a document that protects abortion rights?  Wouldn’t that record disqualify him to sit in a body that advises and consents on Supreme Court nominations when he’s argued for decades that the Constitution should be amended to ban abortion?

Apparently, at least in Marshall’s view, you can’t support a document while wanting to see it changed.  That flies in the face of centuries of American jurisprudence.

The argument that a homosexual rights activist might become a judicial activist would be stronger if this wasn’t a nomination to the General District Court.  The GDC in Virginia is a court not-of-record in Virginia, where there are no jury trials, generally no transcripts, and with an amount-in-controversy limit of $15,000.  Most major cases aren’t heard at that level, and all appeals taken from the GDC go to the Circuit Court de novo – meaning the case is heard as if it were never heard before.  There is little chance that Thorne-Begland could be a judicial activist from that bench, even if he wanted to.

Besides, we all know that judicial activism is the claim both sides make against judges who decide cases the wrong way. We call Sotomayor a judicial activist, the left calls Scalia one.

The saving grace to this entire argument is that the vote wasn’t unanimously against Thorne-Begland, whose sponsors included Delegate Manoli Loupassi, a Republican from Chesterfield County. While 31 Republicans voted against, the majority of the Republican caucus either voted in his favor, abstained, or had already headed for home.

Thorne-Begland deserves a real vote, with the entire House present, and with enough time to make the case that he will be an impartial jurist.  The arguments against him revolve almost completely on his sexual orientation and that’s wrong.  We are Republicans – we should be judging people by their character, not by superficial things like race, gender or sexual orientation.  We don’t play identity politics and the best man or woman should always win, regardless of what they look like or who they date.

Nobody has made the argument that Thorne-Begland isn’t qualified or wouldn’t be a competent judge.  He’s qualified and competent.  He has earned the job.

This vote will further tarnish the Commonwealth’s reputation and will feed into the national debate over gay rights that has somehow overshadowed more fundamental issues like jobs and the economy in the presidential debate.

When are we ever going to learn?

  • Great post.

    The argument that a gay person cannot be trusted to uphold the law simply because he is gay and has in the past stood up for his own constitutional rights as an American is specious and offensive.

    It’s embarrassing that a majority of those voting accepted that reasoning.

  • Jim Wilson

    Thank God for Bob Marshall.

  • Tim J

    “We don’t play identity politics and the best man or woman should always win…” you’re right, but the first thing Democrats do is to scream “identity politics” from the rooftops and through the mainstream media. Social hypersensitivity has been injected into all aspects of our society today, and is being utilized to balkanize this country into warring factions where we as individuals are being reduced to ancient tribal instincts by those who will gain more power if we are apart, than if we are together.

  • Exposing my tilt.

    I accept being tolerant to gays, I resist society giving blessings to their conduct by legalizing gay marriage.

    Those who think like I do are going to lose in the end (at least in the near term) but we are not going to go down without fighting.

    Now, if an elected official’s opinion on gay marriage is pertinent to how voters might vote, how is a judge’s predisposition on the issue out of bounds? Will all judges rule only according to the laws or will some judgements be based upon the personal opinion of the judge?

    The pursuit of gay rights is an interesting case. No rights to gay marriage is specified nor intended in the Constitution. However some judges are already ruling that the right to gay marriage is in there. They are attempting to establish these rights without even legislation let alone an amendment to the Constitution.

  • Brian Kirwin

    Brian S, you owe a lot of Delegates an apology. You assume they all voted no because of his sexual identity, and not because they didn’t want to make a liberal activist a judge.

    You’re worse than the Democrats.

  • I agree, Tim. It’s hard for Democrats to attack us when they are the old hands at playing identity politics.

    I just wanted folks judged on the right criteria for the job they want. Past activism – so long as it’s legal – shouldn’t be a bar to a job.

  • Bob Marshall was right on this. Someone who pretty obviously lied in order to get into the Navy — consciously and willfully lying about his sexual activity under oath in order to obtain employment — is someone who has demonstrated that morality is fungible, breaking an oath can be justified, and the law doesn’t matter as long as you have what you think is a good excuse. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with DADT anyone who intentionally violates an oath is unfit to be a judge.

  • Brian Kirwin

    “Past activism – so long as it’s legal – shouldn’t be a bar to a job.”

    Nice to know you support ACLU lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsberg on the Supreme Court.

  • I am flabbergasted that people can be so disrespectful of men and women who have gone to great lengths to serve our country in combat, despite obstacles put in their way. They should instead be saluted for their integrity and courage, and their willingness to put their lives on the line to protect our Constitution and the freedoms it guarantees.

  • There’s no evidence that he’s a judicial activist. There’s evidence that he was a homosexual activist, but the two aren’t synonymous.

    According to VPAP he’s supported both Republicans and Democrats monetarily in the past. And, looking at the list of names on there, there is at least one other who, according to VPAP, has donated to Democrats in the past. Of the 13 folks nominated or renominated, only 1 was a potential liberal activist? Really?

    Marshall made it clear that it was Thorne-Begland’s homosexual activism that made him unfit to serve. If other delegates have a different take, they can defend themselves.

    As Delegate Mark Keam noted on Twitter last night, he thinks this is the first time in his three years in the legislature that a GDC nominee hasn’t been elected. That raises some questions in my book.

    The chances are that if Marshall hadn’t made this an issue, this appointment wouldn’t have been controversial and it would have sailed through like the others did.

  • Brian Kirwin

    Wow….three years. That goes all the way back to when Obama was President!

  • Samuel Gilleran

    This. So. Hard.

    I’m embarrassed to be a Virginian and a Republican right now. First, as a Virginian, I’m embarrassed that only 64 members in a 100-person body would go on the record yea-or-nay. I understand that it was late, which is why I’m especially embarrassed for the abstainers, who were present and didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to take a stand one way or the other.
    Second, I’m embarrassed for the members of the Republican caucus, including my own delegate, who apparently couldn’t look past the candidate’s sexuality in order to find out whether or not he’d be a good judge. I’m embarrassed that they bought into Marshall’s patently fallacious “arguments” – if one could use that word to describe such crap.
    I like Delegate Merricks. I think he generally does a great job. But he, and the other members who voted down this nominee, really missed the boat last night.

  • Brian, only you could act like a Supreme Court justice and a General District Court judge are even remotely similar.

    Greg – he didn’t have to lie. The whole point of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is the Navy won’t ask, so you shouldn’t tell. He was likely never asked. Thus, that’s not a lie. He didn’t violate anything until he decided to challenge the system. I can’t fault him for that.

  • Brian Kirwin

    Brian, you write, “Marshall made it clear that it was Thorne-Begland’s homosexual activism that made him unfit to serve. If other delegates have a different take, they can defend themselves.”

    That’s like calling everyone a wife beater, and then saying they can deny it if they want.

    Really, you are way, way, way off base. Why not call them all racists while your at it, and then say they can defend themselves if they want to.

  • When was the last time a GDC nominee wasn’t elected, Brian?

  • Evan

    Excellent post, and a good reading of history.

    This man served 20 years in the Navy and was given an honorable discharge. He has since then served for several years as a prosecutor and has done so with distinction.

    This is shameful. Even if one opposes gay marriage, it’s another step entirely to oppose giving a gay person a job they’re qualified for.

  • Brian Kirwin

    “Brian, only you could act like a Supreme Court justice and a General District Court judge are even remotely similar.”

    So, you’d oppose him for the Supreme Court, just not General District Court.

    Brilliant, Schoeneman!

  • Brian, it’s not like that, and you know it. All of these delegates who want to explain their vote can do so. I am simply writing based on what the leader of the effort to block the nomination said.

    As of yet, I have not seen any arguments against this guy that weren’t based on either his violating Don’t Ask Don’t Tell or his activism. I’ve dealt with both of those arguments in my post.

    I’m waiting for someone to argue that he wasn’t qualified or that he couldn’t do the job – which should be the only criteria really at that level. I have yet to see those arguments being made.

    I know you’ve got to beat up on me because you don’t want anyone thinking you wrote this article, but come on. Get off your high horse.

  • I would oppose him for Supreme Court because I don’t believe he’s qualified for that job.

  • Tracy joined the Navy before DADT. Before Clinton. Don’t know if he was asked, but it was pretty routine before DADT. And he did not serve twenty years. He served about 4.

  • Brian Kirwin

    “I am simply writing based on what the leader of the effort to block the nomination said.”

    Then post about Marshall. Lumping every Delegate with him is irresponsible and if the press did it, we’d scream.

    And don’t worry about anyone mistaking my writing for yours. My posts actually support Republicans.

  • I’m waiting for a post supporting Mitt Romney, Brian.

    And I support Republicans when we do the right thing. I point out when we make mistakes because we have to police ourselves.

    I did post about Marshall. The bulk of this post was about Marshall.

  • Brian Kirwin

    “The bulk of this post was about Marshall.”

    That’s the point. You attack every Republican who voted no but the only one you have any information on is Marshall.

  • I talked about this issue, among others, in this interview with Coy Barefoot on WINA-AM in Charlottesville just a few minutes ago, also giving a plug to this debate on Bearing Drift:

    WINA had just reported on the Thorne-Begland matter with sound bites from Bob Marshall and the Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney, so the first question Coy asked me was about it. We went on to talk about the Tea Party and the Ron Paul presidential campaign (two separate topics).

  • Excellent post, Brian (Schoeneman).

  • MD Russ


    I was in the Army before DADT. You were never asked unless your commander had a credible report about your conduct or proclivity. Not in basic training, not in officer training, not even in a security investigation. I got my first Top Secret clearance in 1977 and don’t recall the matter even coming up in the interviews, although we did spend an inordinate amount of time doing a kubuki dance over whether or not I ever tried marijuana in college. The investigator seemed to be far more concerned about that than whether I was sufficiently attracted to females.

    Brian S. is correct–it very plausible to assume that Thorne-Begland was never asked and never had to lie.

  • Samuel Gilleran

    If a legislator votes no on an apparently objectively qualified candidate, he or she should advance a reason for that vote. That all reasons advanced have centered around Thorne-Begland’s homosexuality is a travesty. Kirwin is correct in that there isn’t any information about any delegate other than Bob Marshall (I believe I saw a quote from Lingamfelter in an article), but may I suggest that’s part of the problem, and a relevant reason for these delegates to be “attacked”?

  • Marshall goes on to impugn Thorne-Begland’s integrity, questioning whether he could swear an oath to uphold the Virginia Constitution – a document that bars gay marriage – because of past advocacy against the gay marriage ban.

    Marshall is aware that Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorneys have to swear to uphold the Virginia Constitution when they get hired?

  • Ann Flan Kirwin

    I don’t know first hand, but last night Marshall said that prior to DADT, every new recruit was required to sign something stating that they were not homosexual. Of course, I would equate lying about your sexuality to get into the mllitary with lying about your age to get into the military. Not a huge deal to me. The bigger issue, I think, is that he went on national television to speak out against DADT while he was still in the military. Clearly a violation of their rules of conduct. Not a smart move for someone who wants to be a judge.

  • Steve Vaughan

    Good post, Brian S.
    Reading Marshall’s comments there’s no doubt that what he’s saying is that no one who is gay (or at least openly gay, because otherwise how would the GA know?) is qualified to serve as a judge. I’ve defended Marshall before when others have attacked his intelligence or sincerity. There’s no defending this. It’s just bigotry.

  • It’s nice to see that Brian Kirwin is as brain dead and hackish as he used to be. Uh, Brian, you do that Thorne-Begland was nominated by three Delegates, one of whom is a Republican, right?

  • Nathan

    Bob Marshall has my vote.

  • MD Russ

    I agree with Samuel. Brian S. is right on the mark: in this day and age it is ridiculous and shameful to deny anyone employment or the opportunity for public service simply because of their sexual orientation. If Delegate Marshall can show good cause that Thorne-Begland’s homosexuality makes him unfit to be a district judge, then he is also unfit to be a member of the Virginia Bar. Otherwise, this episode, coming on the heels of that ultrasound silliness, serves only to make Virginia a national laughing stock. We used to leave that responsibility to Kansas and South Carolina.

  • Brian Kirwin

    Brian S, how many Delegates did you speak to for this?

    I’ve talked to over a dozen now…and not one cares that he’s gay. Every one of them told me his sexual identity made no difference. Most of them had a problem with his political activism against military policy, including television appearances, in uniform.

    You’re wrong on this. Badly.

  • Brian Kirwin

    Brian Schoeneman’s next judicial candidate to support:

    “Marine Sgt. Gary Stein first started a Facebook page called Armed Forces Tea Party Patriots to encourage service members to exercise their free speech rights. Then he declared that he wouldn’t follow orders from the commander in chief, President Barack Obama.”

  • It’s impossible to have six children and live to be my age and not know openly gay people. I’m a Christian but that means love the sinner, hate the sin. Just yesterday, one of the openly gay friends of my children came into my home, kissed me, I kissed him back and we chatted about his job search. If this man is qualified to be a Judge in every other way without regard to his sexual orientation he should have been approved.

  • I hope you all are happy now. Virginia is now ALL OVER the news. You’ve just turned Virginia into a blue state–again.Guaranteed. Take VA off the electoral map. Keep it up. NO, I am not happy about this but you get what you ask for.

  • Nope.

    Sorry, but when the leader of this issue made it clear why he was pushing this amendment, it should have been clear how this issue would be portrayed. As I noted in the article, the Navy didn’t prosecute him for violating the Hatch Act or for violating DADT. I just don’t find that line of reasoning compelling.

    Eight members of the Republican party voted in favor. I think you owe them an apology for claiming they would turn a blind eye to violations of the Hatch Act and other Navy regs. How many of them did you contact before making your argument?

  • JayD

    Kirwin, yeah sure, right. And Family Foundation wasn’t running this show either, right? Save it for your next hate-group meeting ‘cause no one here is buying it.

    UNbelievable and payback will come at the ballot box.

  • This is bad. What was going to be nail biter Senate race is just handed to Tim Kaine on a silver platter. I really can’t believe how stupid Republicans can be. Do they want to lose on purpose?

  • Brian Kirwin

    Brian S, it’s sad that you ran for the House and know so little about the House. Since when do Republicans follow Bob Marshall?

  • How terribly fashionable. Except this wasn’t, as Rick Sincere misrepresents, about whether “a gay person can[] be trusted to uphold the law simply because he is gay and has in the past stood up for his own constitutional rights as an American.” First, he had no “constitutional rights” for which he was standing up. He was demanding special rights. And second, he can’t be “trusted to uphold the law” not “simply because he is gay,” but because he has previously violated his oath.

  • Bill Goose

    Why should he get a judgeship for being gay? I could resort to the argument that the Republicans should not have to vote for a liberal homosexual, but no one has a right to be elected a judge. In this case, it appears that he was nominated to be a judge because he is gay. The competition for judgeships in Richmond is pretty stiff, so no one should expect to gain a majority vote in the House of Delegates. It appears that this judgeship was set aside for a homosexual. There is no such set aside and it is wrong for the liberals to expect the Republicans to hand out judgeships to homosexuals.

  • Mark Cernak

    I did not think Republicans voted for gays anyway that group is not a supporter of the Repubican Party (except for a small group Log Cabin). Why would one political party vote for members who support the opposition? I know I can hear it coming about it should be the most quaified for the job! And would you say that the two put on the Supreme Court are quailfied? Unless you have your head in the sand you know those two are not qualified but they are from groups or where supportors of the Demcratic Party. But the Republican Party should not do as the Democratis do and other words put people in the judical that will support your opposition! I think you call that shooting yourself in the foot. It seems there is always a Demcratic judge available to rule as the Democrats feel about the Law so why help the Democratic Party Cause.

  • The religious leaders in Jesus’ day wanted to kill Him. He was friends to prostitutes, tax collectors and forgave thieves. It’s a sad day in Virginia. Aren’t we suppose to love the sinner? I think so. If he was qualified in every way without regard to sexuality, he should have been voted in. It’s a damn shame. And yes, Virginia, you are once again in the National news with a silly black eye.

  • This is completely ignorant.

    One of these days, we’re gonna learn to stop creating controversy.

  • MD Russ

    Ann Flan Kirwin May 15, 2012 17:40 pm

    …The bigger issue, I think, is that he went on national television to speak out against DADT while he was still in the military. Clearly a violation of their rules of conduct. Not a smart move for someone who wants to be a judge.


    Two Air Force F-22 pilots went on “60 Minutes” after complaining to members of Congress that the Air Force wasn’t addressing pilot oxygen problems with the aircraft. Today the SECDEF ordered flight restrictions on the F-22 until the problem is solved. One of those pilots in a Captain in the Virginia Air National Guard stationed at Langley AFB. Would you disqualify him as a future district court judge?

  • Brian, seriously. Come back when you’ve got a real argument and not more personal attacks.

  • Fat Dave

    Mark Cernak, you’d be surprised. And you’ll be surprised when the next Republican legislator is caught with his pants down in Bryan Park. The one thing that my experience in politics taught me was that Democratic campaigns are staffed by gays out of the closet, and Republican campaigns are staffed by gays who are in the closet.

  • Jessica Sandlin

    Great article, Brian. Samuel- couldn’t agree more, and well put. And shame on the senators who voted against bringing it up for a vote. His nomination says, “This is the kind of person we want on the bench in the Commonwealth.”

    From the Times-Dispatch:
    “Thorne-Begland was the only one of more than three dozen judicial nominees — including 10 others from the Richmond region — who was not elected to a judgeship following a marathon legislative session…The defeat of the nomination came in spite of statements of support for Thorne-Begland from Republicans and Democrats alike.”

    As the government has now repealed DADT, this top-of-his-class naval aviator speaking out against it 20-some years ago is moot. He was honorably discharged. None of us can argue it if his branch didn’t; as Brian points out, there was no court-martial. (Incidentally, it is due to people like him that DADT has been repealed.)

    Kudos to our governor for his statement regarding judicial qualifications.

  • JayD

    @Kathy, we’re on the same side here, but I have to take issue w/ “I’m a Christian but that means love the sinner, hate the sin.”
    It may be the battle cry of the Christian Conservative Movement but I sincerely doubt Jesus would even recognize “love the sinner, hate the sin” as his teaching. From my studies I think his underlying message clearly was, “love the sinner, forgive the sin.”
    And it’s in forgiveness that we experience God’s grace and forgiveness can only mean working for full social equality for all – it can’t be offering “love” with one hand and denying justice with the other.
    To “love” the homo-sinner and then exclude him from the civil & social rights we straight-sinners enjoy is hypocrisy. Authentic love & forgiveness helps to free ALL to be fully human, fully actualized, and fully equal in society. Genuine forgiveness means we stop using the rule of law to exclude and marginalize one group – any group – because of a “sin”.
    No one has to renounce personal religious beliefs to do any of the above. You will always be free to believe that homosexuality is a sin … but should your equal rights turn on whether/not someone else perceives you as a “sinner”?

    If that’s so, then none of us deserve equal rights. We all fall short of God’s glory.

  • Brian S, you know how much we disagree but in this case, I tend to take your side here. The problem is that there could be very legitimate reasons to vote not, and one of them is that this judge could turn into a liberal activist. But Marshall MADE this about him being gay on his own, which I find kind of repulsive, frankly. We all need to get past this kind of stuff.

  • JayD, I agree, the phrase “love the sinner, hate the sin” is an old phrase but it means exactly what you said. I above all others know I fall short and need His saving grace. No stones should be thrown by any of us.

  • Fat Dave

    I bet Romney’s tearing into McDonnell and Bolling on Skype as we speak.

  • Ghost of Ted Dalton

    OK, I’ll ask the “dumb” question. Maybe Bearing Drift can provide the answer.

    The GOP is in control of the House. The last time I was involved in a judicial nomination, all candidates had to be vetted by the Courts of Justice Committee.

    I would like to know what that Committee recommended concerning this particular candidate. It would be extremely rare (at least how the House used to operate) for a candidate to make it through Committee and then get defeated on the floor.

  • JayD

    @Ghost, according to news report: “Thorne-Begland’s nomination for a judgeship on the General District Court in Richmond, where he has been a prosecutor for 12 years, had been approved by courts committees in the House and Senate.”

    @Kathy, 🙂
    I bring up the religious in this discussion because the real significant pressure to vote “not” came from the Family Foundation of Virginia – not Del. Marshall. At some point this party MUST address and accept that the influence and money from Christian advocacy organizations now drive the party’s position and is defining who we are. If we don’t like these votes, we better step up, speak up, AND give legislators the political cover they need to buck these groups. These guys are politicians, not saints.

    Again, from the online Richmond Times Dispatch
    “But his nomination came under fire late last week, as the Family Foundation and Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Prince William, stoked fears that the 45-year-old attorney would allow his sexual orientation to influence his judicial decisions.
    In an email blast to supporters late last week, the Christian conservative Family Foundation questioned Thorne-Begland’s fitness for the bench given his support for gay marriage, which is not legal in Virginia. Thorne-Begland and his partner, Michael, live together and are raising twins.”

  • Ghost of Ted Dalton

    Thanks JayD.

    That makes this look extremely odd. Courts of Justice does a good job vetting candidates.

    While I’ve seen judicial candidates defeated on the floor b/c of a split in control of each chamber, I don’t remember a candidate approved by the House Committee and then defeated on the House floor.

    I’m sure it’s happened as I’m reminded of the scripture that there’s nothing new under the sun….but, I can’t remember such a scenario.

  • This whole thing is beyond creepy and there is no reason why Thorne-Begland was not given a vote. Or if you count 21 “asbstenstions” by Republicans who are PAID to be there and vote as ABSENT. This is a joke and there is no way BD can make this even look half way reasonable. Well, they can try, and good luck with that…

  • BD…all the GOP had to do was tip a handful of votes, and this judge thing just did it. I hope you will all be proud with the 45% vote margin against 55%. Great campaign plan.

  • This is what I both love and hate about Marshall. This could have been done quietly and not pose a party marketing disaster. I have to admire his open and public conviction. He doesn’t flinch. I don’t think he’s pretending anything when it comes to why this went down the way it did. This is about the gayness of the candidate and not overall liberalism or real overall record.

    Issue wise, it just kills me that he and others so aggressively hunt gays. As fanatastic as he is on so many issues, this kinda thing always disappoints. I’m thinking being gay means more to Marshall than party affiliation or record.

    This kinda thing makes the RPV look bad. It makes libertarians and independents that like Marshall for other reasons look bad for continuing to say good things about him. Not that I will stop. There are always people that drive you insane over one particular thing, but you still have to look at the over all picture.

    Sometimes all you can do is shake your head.

    Nice to agree with Brian S., on something. Good article, but Kirwin does have a point. Not all delegates necessarily voted that way for the same reason. Not everyone was as open on why they voted as they did.

  • Greg L, I love you like a brother, but two of my uncles lied to get into the Navy during WWII. Neither was 18 at the time.

  • Britt, I’m glad we can agree, too.

    Marshall did the entire caucus a disservice by pushing this the way he did. I could understand the issue that Delegates have, especially the veterans, against political activism in uniform – even though I disagree that what he did made him unfit to serve. But once Marshall turned this into a gay witch hunt, that changed the dynamic.

    As usual, Marshall never lets an opportunity to showboat pass him by. And we all get to pay for it.

  • MD Russ


    So where do you draw the line on a single political issue? Bob Marshall is notoriously homophobic. But you still support him and can’t forgive George Allen for voting with his Republican caucus as a freshman senator?

    Explain, please.

  • Eric McGrane

    There’s still time to support Jamie Radtke for Senate.

    How many folks think that she would have created a press disaster of this magnitude….AGAIN?

    The dilution of the senate field is oh so helpful.

  • MD Russ


    That ship never sailed. It sank at the dock. Sideshow Bob is hardly a reason to support Radtke, any more than her “I’m not George” campaign is.

  • Lovettsville Lady

    I do not want ANY activists, of any identity, on any court. Period.

  • MD Russ


    Too bad that the Framers didn’t include that in the Constitution. We would have never had decisions ranging from Marbury vs. Madison to Brown vs. The Board of Education coming from the Supreme Court. Gosh, don’t you wish that we still had all those racially segregated schools that we enjoyed back in 1954, not to mention the Federal government being able to tax the States into submission? “Give me that old time religion…”

  • Jackson Miller

    Brian, as one of the Delegates who had a front row seat throughout the entire debate, I hope you don’t mind if I take a moment to clarify a few things.

    First, just for clarification purposes, my good friend and seatmate Del. Loupassi is from Richmond, not Chesterfield. (He represents parts of Chesterfield.)

    In one of your remarks you state, “I am simply writing based on what the leader of the effort to block the nomination said.” I would agree that Del. Marshall was the leader to block this nomination in the arena of public opinion, however, he was not the leader within the House Republican Caucus on the subject of not electing Thorne-Begland to the General District Court.

    If you had been able to watch the floor debates, you would have seen that a group of retired military Colonels gave very articulate and convincing statements as to why they believed Thorne-Begland should not be elected. I was compelled to not vote for this judicial candidate based on what I was told by several career military retirees that I serve with in the House of Delegates.

    Del. Marshall is a strong orator and the press loves to interview and quote him on hot button issues, but I can assure you that in this instance the members of my caucus did not see him as the leader on this issue. They were listening to the military leaders.

    @ MD Russ May 15, 201217:13 pm, I certainly can’t say what you went through, but when I entered the Army in the late 80’s I had to fill out a ton of paperwork with all sorts of questions like drug use, criminal activity, etc. Homosexual activity was part of the questionaire. I don’t remember exactly how it was worded, but I was definitely asked.

    @Jessica Sandlin May 15, 201220:25 pm, The paragraph from that Times Dispatch article you posted is misleading.

    “Thorne-Begland was the only one of more than three dozen judicial nominees — including 10 others from the Richmond region — who was not elected to a judgeship following a marathon legislative session…The defeat of the nomination came in spite of statements of support for Thorne-Begland from Republicans and Democrats alike.”

    While it’s true that Thorne-Begland was the only judicial nominee that was “not elected,” there were others who were taken off the judge resolution on the Senate side who were not even given an opportunity for election (term used for ‘vote’ on judicial candidates), even though they were certified by the House.

    One of those candidates was Kimberly E. White. I was very impressed with this candidate who was up for a Circuit Court position in one of the South Side Virginia Circuits. Again, the Senate took her name off of the resolution and never voted on her candidacy. At least one other candidate (can’t remember his name but I believe it was the Circuit Court in Hopewell), was removed from the judge resolution on the Senate side as well.

    Why were they removed? I’m not in the Senate, but I have heard it was because certain members of the Senate think those candidates have made ‘judgement mistakes’ in the past, something you don’t want in a ‘judge’.

    The career military veterans in the House gave very compelling arguments that Thorne-Begland made some serious ‘judgment mistakes’ in his past.

    Simply put, it is hardly unprecidented. In fact, it’s common for very qualified judicial nominees to never get elected to the bench by the legislature.

    I was on the fence listening to the debate on whether to vote for this candidate after listening to the debate on the House floor. It was the convincing points made by several colleagues that helped me make my decision not to cast a vote for Mr. Thorne-Begland.

  • Jackson Miller

    One other point I forgot to clarify in that last post is the process on judge votes i.e., judicial elections in he General Assembly.

    There have been many questions/accusations as to why there were so many people who did not record a vote.

    A Judge must get 51 votes to be elected. A simple majority may not be enough.

    For example, during the regular session if a piece of legislation gets a vote of 47 yeas, 44 nays, with the rest not voting, it passes.

    A Judge election must get at least 51 yes votes, period. If the vote is 49 or 50 yes votes with the rest not voting, the Judge is not elected.

    This is why (in my humble opinion) it is not necessary to vote ‘no’ in Judge elections.

  • MD Russ

    Delegate Miller,

    I cannot attest to the forms that you filled out in the late 1980’s versus those that I filled out in the early 70’s. It is important to note that I entered the military at the end of the draft era and that the military was motivated to enrolling as many otherwise qualified candidates as possible. By the late 1980’s, the Army had been through the Quality of Force Initiative (QFI) and soldiers who had previously been enlisted with waived criminal records, for example, were denied reenlistment.

    What I can tell you is that throughout numerous background investigations from 1973 through 1997, a year before I retired, I do not recall ever being asked about my sexual orientation. Further, I was frequently interviewed over the years by Defense Investigative Service (DIS) agents on background checks for other soldiers and officers I knew and I don’t recall being asked if I suspected their sexual orientation. Of course, there was always the general question about “anything in their personal life that would subject them to blackmail or embarrassment.”

    I am disappointed that there was testimony by “retired military Colonels” and sidebar discussions with retired military Delegates that apparently influenced your vote that have not been made public. That is a lack of transparency that is deplorable. Was this a regular session of the General Assembly or a Star Chamber hearing?

    Just to be clear, I am not gay and no one in my extended family (as far as I know) is gay. I am just a retired military officer who learned many years ago that judging people by their race, religious creed, sex, or sexual orientation is a losing proposition that has no place in free republic.

    You should be ashamed of your vote.

  • Fat Dave

    Del. Miller,

    If you were so much on the fence on this issue, why did you not abstain or not vote, like many of your colleagues? Did you or any of your colleagues take into consideration the effect this vote will have on the future statewide performance of the RPV, with a Presidential and U.S. Senate elections coming up? Is there a transcript or recording available of the retired Colonels’ testimony? If so, I suggest you post a link to them to help justify your vote. It’ll take more then, “Whew, you should’a heard what I heard” to heal the black eye you and your colleagues have dealt the RPV.

  • MIke Smith

    Mr. Schoeneman, your article and all of the support for the positions you take, are so filled with shallow thinking and logical inconsistencies—not to mention the obvious denial of human nature itself, that it would take an article at least as long to refute all points. Unless you were to give me, or a smarter than me right thinking academic equal space it would be a waste of time.

  • Brian Kirwin

    Brian S, exactly where are these “personal attacks” you are whining about?

    I pointed out that you took ONE delegate’s motivation and assigned it to the entire Republican caucus, without even bothering to talk to a single Delegate at all.

    What Del. Miller wrote here is what I heard repeatedly about this issue, and you slurred Delegates (ignoring Democrats who didn’t vote yes, I might add) by claiming to know their motivations when you didn’t even try to learn them.

    Then you brushed them all away by saying they could clear it up later if they wanted to.

    Write about Marshall, and I have no problem with you. But attacking every Republican for what he said is irresponsible, inaccurate and wrong.

    And that’s not a personal attack from me.

    Maybe if I said “We can add civil unions to the long list of unions you love” you’d have a point, but I didn’t say that.

  • JayD

    Delegate Miller,
    I agree with MDRuss and FatDave. Count me as another ‘straight’ Republican demanding much better than “if you only knew what I knew”. News reports say otherwise; from WWBT:
    In the 1990s, Thorne-Begland, then a Navy pilot, made national news for coming out as gay, which at the time went against military policy. But Tuesday, Republican lawmakers, backed by The Family Foundation, claimed it was not his sexual orientation but rather his activist history that torpedoed his nomination.”There’s just not room for any possibility of political views affecting the impartiality that’s needed in the courtroom and General Assembly members clearly didn’t know him well enough to be certain that that couldn’t happen,” said Victoria Cobb, president of The Family Foundation. “The reality is that once you have taken an oath and violated it, that’s not the type of person the General Assembly typically puts on the bench.”

    For the record: Thorne-Begland said he would refrain from political activity if appointed to the district court and wrote the following in a letter to the Courts of Justice Committee: “In those cases where my impartiality could reasonably be questioned, I will, as any judge in my position would, recuse myself,”

  • JayD

    Kirwin, until those other legislators go on record (like Delegate Miller), Victoria Cobb and Del. Marshall’s motivations represent theirs, too. And so far, Miller’s explanation just doesn’t cut with the facts, as they are known.

  • Dear Delegate Miller. You wrote:

    “I was on the fence listening to the debate on whether to vote for this candidate after listening to the debate on the House floor. It was the convincing points made by several colleagues that helped me make my decision not to cast a vote for Mr. Thorne-Begland.”

    This is probably one of the most difficult votes you have had to cast. As a former member of the Missouri General Assembly, I well remember a most difficult vote. It was not a gay issue. It was about the right to burn the flag. This was in the 1980s and our first Iraq invasion.

    The most impassioned speach I ever heard was delivered by fellow Repubican and fellow St. Charles County representative, Joseph “Joe” Ortwerth. Yes, it was all the mood to vote for a constitional amendment to ban burning the flag.

    And Joe’s speech stopped that in its tracks, and that idea was voted DOWN swiftly. The reason is simple: you don’t represent a free society by voting away their rights or because of the temporary whims of a mob. The whole thing went down in flames. Why? Reason prevailed.

    PLEASE keep this in mind as you progress in your political career. I have great hopes for you if you can keep to these principles. Don’t succumb to mob mentality.

    Last, I want to thank you for your service to the Commonwealth and for all the hard work you are doing.

    Craig Kilby

  • Del. Miller,

    Thanks for coming to Bearing Drift to air your side of the argument. I am aware of Del. Loupassi’s district – I had a good conversation with him during my campaign – I was trying to change up the prose so I didn’t keep repeating Richmond.

    I’m also sorry that I lost my election, otherwise I would have made the arguments I made above on the floor of the House, rather than in print. And I’m also sorry that I couldn’t have seen the debate live and the video is not yet available on Richmond Sunlight or anywhere else I’ve looked for it, so I wasn’t able to see all of the debate. I relied on press reports from the Richmond Times Dispatch, the Washington Post, New York Times, and a variety of other outlets. All of them referred to Delegate Marshall as the leader in the fight to block Thorne-Begland.

    Whether he was considered the leader in the caucus, his actions both before the vote and after led to those of us who weren’t on the floor to view him as leading the charge.

    As for the arguments they made, I dealt with them in my article. As I noted, the Navy did not choose to prosecute Thorne-Begland for violating Navy regulations. They simply did what they always did with outed servicemembers – he was separated, given an honorable discharge. The Navy could have taken much harsher action and they chose not to. That, in my opinion, is where that matter should have been left.

    But the argument there raises larger questions – if his behavior there was so egregious, why was he licensed as an attorney in Virginia? Why was he hired as a Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney? How did he get nominated? How did he survive the initial vetting? How did his name get reported out favorably by the Courts of Justice committee? A handful of members who voted against Thorne-Begland on the floor – including you – sit on that committee. Was this issue ever raised at that level?

    The vote in favor of Thorne-Begland was not exclusively Democrats. A number of Republican Delegates who I highly respect voted in his favor, so this wasn’t a partisan issue, in my mind. But we’re being painted – again – as a party full of bigots and homophobes, thanks to Marshall, and I wanted to make it clear to the rest of the country that not every Virginia Republican thinks that way.

    I hope more Delegates who had a legitimate reason for voting against Thorne-Begland come out and explain their vote and I would like to see some condemnation of Marshall for what he did.

  • JayD, you’re wrong. Flat out wrong. Marshall’s motivations represent Marshall’s. Smearing other people with the words one person said and claiming that they can deny it later is irresponsible.

    By your standards, Bearing Drift can post that you molest puppies and say “Well, JayD can put out a statement denying it if he wants.”

  • JayD

    “If I were to remain silent, I’d be guilty of complicity.” – Albert Einstein

    Until they speak up, they ARE complicit.
    And, FTR, elected officials serve at the pleasure of the people; I do not.

  • JayD, are you saying that every Democrat who hasn’t spoken, but didn’t vote yes either, is a homophobe?

  • Kirwin, could you stop putting words in people’s mouths and actually make an argument? That’s such a hackneyed debate tactic. JayD was pretty clear in what he said.

  • That’s exactly what he said. He said if they are silent, they are guilty.

  • Mark Cernak

    JayD May 15, 201220:28 pm
    You said that Jesus would even recognize “love the sinner, hate the sin” as his teaching. From my studies I think his underlying message clearly was, “love the sinner, forgive the sin.” Jesus and/or God do not forgive the sin until the sinner asked to be forgiven! Jesus does not forgive the sin until the sinner asks and if you still are in sin he does not forgive the sin!

  • Brian S., nice post. I’m sure it will get you excommunicated. TC will always welcome you!

  • I will add that of all the “no” votes on the nominee, David Ramadan’s stands out as the most hypocritical and disgusting of them all.

    In voting against the confirmation of an openly homosexual nominee for a district court judgeship on the basis of his sexual preference, or even his perceive inability to apply Virginia laws on same sex marriages because of his sexual preference, Ramadan is every bit as guilty of the bigotry and prejudice of which he himself was the victim only one year ago.

    • It appears Brian K. has a point here. There seems to be a lot of comments on here presuming that every Republic “No” vote is an echo of Bob Marshall. Did David Ramadan vote “no” because he is scared of gays or did he vote “no” because of other reasons?

      And with all respect to Dr. Einstein, silence does not equal complicity, except perhaps in one’s own conscience. I think it’d be better to let each voter speak for him or herself rather than jump to conclusions and lump them all into a certain category based on the outspoken nature of one delegate who’s currently running for US Senate.

      Oh, and Brian S., the analogy/argument reversal comparing the duties of judges to the duties of legislators is absolutely ridiculous. Legislators are elected to repeal, change, or enact new laws–judges are not.

  • JayD

    Kirwin, let me be perfectly clear … those that abstained are chickensh#@ AND complicit.

    Marshall is clear. The Family Foundation is clear – “gayness” disqualified this prosecutor. Miller, without providing specifics essentially tells voters to trust his judgment.(Cough)
    Yes, I’ll demand very same explanation from Democrats when their judgeship votes are based (for example) upon a candidate’s religious convictions AND will similarly conclude any democrat that abstains from voting, does not issue a statement, or speak out against the wrong is complicit.

    OTOH ~It’s encouraging to see so many republicans defying the public’s perception of us and “coming out” on this issue! Kudos to Brian S. for stepping up and leading the way.

  • “Yes, I’ll demand very same explanation from Democrats”

    Go talk to Sen. McEachin about Republican Commonwealth’s Attorney Kim White from Halifax, and how he wouldn’t even let her nomination come to a vote.

  • Andrew, Kirwin’s point ignores both the political realities of the vote and the fact that two former Delegates with long histories of activism and political action were confirmed as GDC judges with no concern for their potential to legislate from the bench undermines that argument.

    I can respect the former military veterans for their reasoning, even if I disagree with it. But so far I have seen no public statements from anybody who voted against Thorne-Begland denounce Marshall for what he’s said and his claim that he lead the battle against Thorne-Begland. It’s been over 24 hours – at this point, the narrative has been locked in and we are taking the brunt of it.

    I don’t think I compared the duties of legislators with the duties of judges. But when you’ve got a former legislator in line to become a judge, I think the same questions about political activism are fair to ask.

    • I don’t dispute that some of the delegates might have worked to prevent his appointment based on their prejudices, but I am much more hesitant to ascribe those same motives to the whole of a group.

      Remember the warnings of Thucydides when politicians in Greece became so polarized: “Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation became regarded as specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question was the same as the inaptness to act on any.”

      I agree it looks bad, and Republicans are gonna get hammered for it, but I don’t think throwing an entire caucus under the bus is the answer.

  • Maybe this sums it up for those who just don’t get it, coming from an ex Byrd Organization guy.

    think you were probably correct about the non voters. 51 votes were needed. Therefore if enough stayed away, they could kill the nomination without a vote. Almost like the Wisconsin legislature Democrats fleeing to Illinois.

    By the way, State Senate also voted 20-19 against him.

    Following is an email I sent out to some friends:

    Correction: While the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court is a part of the General District Court system, Thorne-Begland was nominated simply to be a General District Court judge. See Post editorial for job description.

    1. Richmond Times-Dispatch, a paper that since the end of the Byrd Organization, has never to my recollection endorsed a Democrat: “The House Republicans insistence on spiking a gay nominee – who is raising children in a stable relationship – because of his stance on a single issue unrelated to the post he is being named to shows an appalling lack of judgment and decency.”

    2. Norfolk Virginian-Pilot: “Tuesday’s vote brought dishonor to this General Assembly and ranks among the lowest moments in a legislative session that’s been full of them.”

    3. Former governor George Allen, Marshall’s chief rival in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, struck a similar note to McDonnell’s in a statement e-mailed from his campaign.
    “Decisions on judges should be merit-based selections based on a person’s skill, ability, fairness, judicial temperament, and fidelity to the Constitution and laws — judges should apply the law, not invent it or impose their own political views,” he said.
    [Much the same as Governor McDonnell said. One of McDonnell’s cabinet members is the husband of the Family Foundation’s head, the fanatic Virginia Cobb.]

    4. Washington Post, editorial May 15
    Bigotry blocks a gay Virginian from the bench

    “If anything, Tracy Thorne-Begland, a top state prosecutor in Richmond with a decade of courtroom experience, is overqualified for a judgeship on the General District Court. Mr. Thorne-Begland, who has prosecuted dozens of homicides and other major felonies, runs one of the biggest commonwealth’s attorney’s offices in Virginia. The caseload of the court to which he was nominated consists mainly of traffic violations, minor crimes and run-of-the-mill civil disputes over contracts and late rent payments.
    * * *
    No matter how they dressed it up, the Republicans’ opposition boiled down to old-fashioned prejudice. Even by voting at 1 a.m., they couldn’t hide the fact that bigotry and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is alive and well in the state of Virginia.

    As for me, I will never vote for another Republican in Virginia again. The majority of them, as a group, are garbage. If this does not go down well, so be it. There comes a time when one simply stands up and says “enough.”

  • I didn’t, Andrew. The majority of the caucus didn’t vote against Thorne-Begland. I noted that in my article.

    • Sorry, I meant the “voted no” caucus. Poor choice of words on my part.

  • Brian S also wrote this in his article:

    “Democrats have been quick to accuse Republicans of voting against Thorne-Begland because he’s openly gay and has been vocal about his rights. can’t blame them, because that’s basically what happened.”

    Brian S. apparently doesn’t even agree with himself. He joins Democrats in attacking Republicans, while he says he defends Republicans.

  • I haven’t contradicted myself, Kirwin. Had Thorne-Begland not been vocal when he was in the Navy, he wouldn’t have been voted down by the members who voted him down. But I also pointed out in my article that the majority of our caucus in the House voted in favor or didn’t vote at all.

    I’m not joining Democrats in attacking Republicans. I am a Republican standing up for what I believe is right and criticizing a decision I believe was wrong.

    But, please, continue attacking a fellow Republican for disagreeing with this vote and with you. I’ll even be nice and not say you’re worse than a Democrat for doing it. I guess it’s only okay when you do it.

  • Jessica Sandlin

    Brian S. – again, BRAVO for this, and for continuing to point out the obvious in the Comments section.

    JayD, MD Russ, and Fat Dave are on target. Andrew- if no one else is speaking, how can we think that they voted based on anything other than what’s been publicized? I would think the other delegates would be publicly decrying being lumped in with the Family Foundation and Del. Marshall (who in some politics, I’ve agreed with). Craig- yep. *sigh*

    And the motivation for the retired military delegates’ arguments may have sounded like genuine military/judgment concerns, but they were because of Thorne-Begland’s sexual orientation and the “threat” of his “lifestyle.” He was honorably discharged. There is no argument here. (If there is, show it to us, Del. Miller.)

    We, the voters, see through this. It’s embarrassing and shameful.

  • Yes, Brian. Ultra-conservative Jessica applauds you. You certainly are a right winger.

  • John Crawford

    Wow-does Kirwin drink the kool aid or what? Who told him he was in charge of telling people if they are true republicans or not. News flash-Reagan’s big tent has collapsed with hate filled hypocrits like Kirwin defending delegates who are too tongue tied to do it themselves. If they can defend their vote they should let their constituents know, not whisper it into Kirwin’s ear and use him for the tool he is.

  • Pingback: 33 voices for justice()

  • John, at least you spelled hate correctly. Wish I could say that about the rest of your post.

    In future, if you’re going to call someone hate filled, it might help to be a bit less overflowing of it yourself.

  • john Crawford

    Just as I thought-deflecting and projecting Kirwin. When are you going to make a solid argument? It’s wonderful some of these cowardly Delegates feel you are important enough to call and whine to about this matter. Just be careful you don’t fight all their battles for them. They should be able to handle themsleves. It only diminishes your credibility…and theirs. If you don’t understand what I’m writing feel free to deflect by searching for typos instead of making a valid point.

  • John-baby, just because your name-calling self doesn’t agree doesn’t mean opposing points of view aren’t “valid.”

  • Man. This is so sad. It’s rare day when I agree with Brian S and disagee with Brian K. But today I do. Brian S. proud of you Brian K, ashamed of you.

  • Craig, why?

  • Mark Cernak

    I keep reading that he was honorably discharged. There is no argument here. How do you figure there is not argument here he decided to violate military regulations and he thought his sexual preference was more important then his service in the military! So if his sexual preference is more important then his job in the miltary why would his sexual preference not trump his job as judge. Also he got a honorable discharge because the military took the road to least resistance (political Correctness).

  • Brian Kirwin:

    “I pointed out that you took ONE delegate’s motivation and assigned it to the entire Republican caucus, without even bothering to talk to a single Delegate at all.”

    Gee and golly. I have tried calling and emailing my state delegate Brenda Ronson since forever. If you can find her, please let me know. As far as I can tell, she is just an invisible Republican robot who shows up just in time to push a yes button.

  • Brian Kirwin

    Your state delegate is who???????

    If I was Brenda Ronson and I heard from you, I’d be wondering what the hell you’re talking about.

    There is absolutely no delegate in Virginia with that name.

  • Oh excuse me, her last name is RANSONE. She’s mighty proud of that. I just just wish she’d be more proud of being a state delegate. Another disgrace to the Republican Party.

  • Ah. Emails usually get better responses when you actually type the correct name.

    Funny that your email didn’t bounce back to you when you misspelled her name so horribly.

  • Brian, you are so right when you say:

    “If I was Brenda Ronson and I heard from you, I’d be wondering what the hell you’re talking about.

    There is absolutely no delegate in Virginia with that name.”

    You are so right. There is a Brenda Ransone. Can you find her please? I sure cant, and she is my elected reprentative. And don’t bother send me her email or anwsering machine. Been there, done that. I may as well call Santa Clause. If you have better idea, let me know. I can’t recall the last time I offered to put up yard signs for a candidate a pretty good location and my phone call went completely ignored. Either she is an absolutute idiot who is begging to be defeated, or she has absolute idiots working for her. In either case, she is an idiot.

  • “an absolutute idiot,” huh?

  • MD Russ

    Mark Cernak,

    Thorne-Begland was hardly the only gay service member to “come out” while in the military in protest of DADT. And I am sure that he was aware of the consequences. However, under DADT, being homosexual was a issue of fitness, not misconduct. There is nothing in the Uniform Code of Military Justice that makes it an offense to simply be homosexual. Hence, he was separated under honorable conditions. It had nothing to do with political correctness or taking the path of least resistance.

    Now then, I had no idea that being homosexual disqualifies you from being a judge. Have you communicated that to Delegate Marshall, because even he maintains that it was not Thorne-Begland’s homosexuality but his political activism that disqualified him? Could you possibly give us your entire list of professional occupations that are closed to homosexuals?

  • Jessica Sandlin

    Kirwin- I’ll be sure to use that “ultra-conservative” quote out of context!

    I love the big tent!

    (Can we get back to the economy now?)

  • You’ll all just love this one from Margaret Ransone I(espcially you Brian Kirwin. I just love her logic and 21 other Republican delegates all had “family matter” to attend and just didn’t seek to have a ClUE they were expecte to–gasp@– VOTE? but yet get paid for breathing.

    Here is her obnoxious automated email answer (she doesn’t date answer the phone to talk to her constituents]

    I emailed Ransone’s office asking why she did not vote. Here’s the response:

    Mr. (name deleted),
    The Delegate was not in Richmond on Monday due to a family matter. However, she was not supportive of this judge. If you would like to discuss this further please contact the office,

    I replied:

    Thank you for your response.

    I find it strange that: (1) Governor McDonnell had sufficient faith in Thorne-Begland’s ability and qualifications to nominate him [INCORRECT], and, (2) every judge and attorney who worked with him in the Richmond area supported him, yet, Ms. Ransone did not support him.

    Perhaps you could identify for me SPECIFICALLY what Ms. Ransone feels disqualified this nominee?

    And I’d LOVE to know just how to contact my state legistor. If anyone can figure out how to reach this witch and at which golf course, on which hole and after how many scotch and sodas, much appreciated

  • Nice to see you actually emailed the delegate this time.

  • You know its pretty bad when 2/3 of the BD posters think this was very bad politics. Heck, calling this bad politics isn’t even putting it mildly. I might have to change my projections down to 30% GOP.

  • Jessica Sandlin, ultraconservative.

    Kind of has a nice ring to it, Jess. 🙂

  • Brian K: No I did not email her. Another of consitutents did. I did try calling her at two phone numbers, with no answer. I have tried emailing before and have also left her phone messages, to no avail. She really is the invisible delegate. If you can find her, please let me know you how did it. I mean, I even offered her a donation and yard sign location. I’m not even on her mailing list, unless it is RPVA generated pap. Let’s put it this way: I am not impressed.

  • Jessica Sandlin

    I was thinking that myself, J.R. In fiscal areas- more and more!

  • Wow, Craig.

    At 2PM, you wrote “I have tried calling and emailing my state delegate Brenda Ronson since forever.”

    At 4Pm you wrote “No I did not email her. Another of consitutents did”

    And you’re ashamed of ME?????????????

  • Fat Dave


    I think most people here would like to hear from the other delegates, but they ain’t talking. My results so far:

    Del. Bob Marshall: He’s GAY!
    Del. Jackson Miller: If you’d heard what I heard, you’d agree.
    Del. John Cox, via one of his constituents: If you’d heard what I’d heard, you’d agree.
    Del. Jimmie Massie, my delegate: {crickets}
    Del. Ransone: I’m out of the office. Please contact my office to discuss this issue in greater detail.

    No wonder “Grandstanding” Bob Marshall is the face of this crisis. He’s the only one speaking openly about it.

  • I didn’t have to call my delegate – Barbara Comstock had the sense to vote YES.

  • At least she voted and that is the end of that. I do apologize for my typos. I DID send my delegate Mrs. Ransone emails–before she was e even elected. Now her excuse is that she has an incompentent staff staff that she herself hired. Go figure. She is an incomompitent idiot.

  • Edward White

    To the Hon. Member. Good thing you were not in the House when there was a real conservative running it. E. Blackburn (Blackie) Moore would have slammed this debate shut in an instant. Of course he was a Democrat, therefore he was “bad” in the eyes of the simpletons who have highjacked the Virginia Republican Party and made it into the theological offshoot of the Taliban. God help you had you been around when Mills Godwin was governor. At that time “conservative” had to do with principles not pandering.

  • You’re a good man, Brian. My first thought at what Marshall had done was “petulant temper tantrum.” You have done an excellent and patient job explaining just what his hypocrisies are. There may still be hope for the GOP with guys like you around.

  • Thanks, Brian S. The representations that Mr. Thorne-Begland violated his duty or his oath were uninformed misrepresentations used to cloak discriminatory animus in more presentable sheep’s clothing.

  • Brian, phenomenal post. I have only one small critique. This wasn’t a black eye for all Virginians, just Virginia Republicans. I know it drives folks like you bananas when Democrats accuse the Republican Party of bigotry. Republicans have within their power to shut down that argument once and for all–all they have to do is stop being bigoted.

    I hope you convince more Republicans to follow your lead on this issue.

  • JayD

    Before this goes ‘below the fold’, I want to acknowledge and extend appreciation to that small group of republican delegates that didn’t cave under the Family Foundation’s push and voted FOR this nomination. Hats off to these legislators!
    David B. Albo, R Fairfax
    Barbara J. Comstock, R-Fairfax
    Peter F. Farrell, R-Henrico
    Terry G. Kilgore, R-Scott
    James M. LeMunyon, R-Fairfax
    Joseph A. Yost, R-Montgomery

  • Brian Kirwin

    Jayd, below the fold…jumped the shark….story’s already old news.

    Now, does anyone want to write a story about Sen. McEachin submarining a Republican judicial nominee the very same night?

  • It is excellent to see Ed White here. We will learn much from him.

  • MD Russ

    How about you writing it, BK? You seem to have all the answers.

  • Brian Kirwin May 16, 2012 22:04 pm

    “Jayd, below the fold…jumped the shark….story’s already old news.

    Now, does anyone want to write a story about Sen. McEachin submarining a Republican judicial nominee the very same night?”

    Brian Kirwin May 16, 2012 10:29 am

    “Yes, I’ll demand very same explanation from Democrats”

    Go talk to Sen. McEachin about Republican Commonwealth’s Attorney Kim White from Halifax, and how he wouldn’t even let her nomination come to a vote.”

    Was this an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth Brian?

  • BTW, I don’t respect Sen. McEachin in his politics in blocking Kim either. I hope he gets replaced.

  • Kathy, he blocked her last year, too, but with the Dems in charge then, she didn’t even get out of committee.

    She did this year, and SLAM by McEachin. Does the press care?

  • Fat Dave

    While the reportage is lopsided, McEachin’s behavior towards Kim White doesn’t justify, or remove the stigma from the RPV of, blocking Thorne-Begland.

  • JayD

    Jeez Kirwin, you sound like a petulant schoolboy … “Well, he hit me first!” Be a grownup and do what Brian S. did – collect your facts & write up your case. Unless you’re saying this vote was a backroom, collective, organized payback moment? Did anyone bother to clue in Marshall or the Family Foundation?

    I taught my youngns that “2 wrongs don’t make a right” and “poor behavior on someone else’s part doesn’t excuse poor behavior on your part” . Do I need to school you on that, too?

  • Tim J

    Apparently they voted to not have a “gay judge” rather than a judge who just happens to be gay. It is a case of an adjective fighting with a noun.

  • Roland W

    It was nice of Del. Miller to join the discussion to clarify things. Too bad he didn’t! He says “If you had been able to watch the floor debates, you would have seen that a group of retired military Colonels gave very articulate and convincing statements as to why they believed Thorne-Begland should not be elected”. Too bad that is not even close to accurate. I was in the chamber and recorded the debate.

    Delegate Lingamfelter spoke about the ‘violation’. He was followed by a Delegate I believe was Delegate Anderson. This Delegate said several members….and then Col.Lingamfelter, Col. Dudenhefer, Commander Stolle, Commander Cole, Lt Col. Morris and Captain Miller. Anderson is identified at Wikipedia as a Brigadier General… of the Civil Air Patrol.

    ONLY these TWO delegates spoke in opposition to the nomination, so Miller may have heard from or talked to Delegates that are Colonels, BUT only ONE, Col. Lingamfelter, spoke in the floor debate.

    Miller is further disingenuous with his ‘the Colonels said so argument’ since he is a former military officer and should have at least rudimentary knowledge of the DADT repeal. So if the mythical Colonels were right about the violation of an oath, ‘they are not’, the repeal wipes out any judgements related to it. Discharged gay vets can be reinstated, have there discharge status changed, etc.

    Except that Thorne-Begland HAS an honorable discharge!

    There were 10 Abstentions under Rule 69 ‘If a member wants to “abstain”, he invokes or “votes” Rule 69 indicating that he is present for the vote but has a specific, personal interest in the outcome of the bill’.
    Since this obviously doesn’t mean what it seems to mean ‘Delegate Marshall would/should have abstained’.
    Can someone attempt to find out what Delegates, M Cox, Crockett-Stark, Ingram, Landes, O’Quinn, Putney, Rush, E. Scott, Sherwood and Stolle’s specific personal interest was.

    Regarding a com-mentor’s thought that some Delegates left before the vote,that is inaccurate. Thorne-Begland was not moved to the end of the list. All other nominees received 78 to 82 yeas, meaning the majority of the 82 were in the chamber or the hall for every vote.

    Regarding assumptions that all no, abstention and absent votes were lead by Marshall and the Family Foundation.
    Delegates subject themselves to assumption unless they make a statement. CBS 6 played an audio interview with Delegate Cline on the 11 pm news last night. I appreciate him for fessing up to ‘calling the Family Foundation’.

    Are any Delegates having second thoughts about supporting former Delegate Athey – a gun rights advocate, or is it just gays that can’t separate their agenda from their job once they are on the bench.

  • David Beemer

    I’m late to the “party” which is fine by me.

    It is my opinion that LTJG Thorne going public on national TV while on active duty 20 years ago doesn’t disqualify him to sit on the bench today. I actually believe fighting for what you think is right, regardless of the consequences, is exactly the qualities we should all inspire to.

    Society changes slowly. For example Galileo was found guilty of heresy in 1633 for supporting Copernican astronomy and he spent the last nine years of his life under house arrest for something that he knew to be true via his own eyes. I’m not sure how long it took the Church (aka the government) to come around but eventually they did.

    In 1992 I didn’t have an opinion on gays serving. I knew gays served and the policy at that time was pretty straight forward. Your gay, your out. I would NOW argue the regulation that prohibited gays form serving was fundamentally wrong. Like Galileo, it’s the LTJG Thorne’s of this world who knew the regulation to be wrong and stood up to be heard and paid a heavy price twenty years ago and again last Tuesday.

    LTJG Thorne likely didn’t know that there were 45,000+ active duty gays serving in 1992. But he did know his speaking out on national TV was a violating of the UCMJ Article 133, Conduct Unbecoming an Officer. The beef is he showed poor leadership and decision making when he opted to come out on national television. I would argue, based on what I read in the Board of Inquiry transcript, that he was an outstanding officer, an up coming leader, had a strong moral compass and was doing what history will one day show to be a in the highest tradition of the naval service.

    PS One thing that keeps rattling in my mind from reading the Board of Inquiry transcript… By 1992 no other major organization in the US, other than the US Military, was actively discriminating against gays for just being gay. If it wasn’t for service members like LTJG Thorne, I’m positive there would still be a ban on Gays in the military who now and always have numbered in the tens of thousands.

  • House Republican Veterans Caucus

    Bad Judgment: Not the Stuff of Would-be Judges
    A key function of the General Assembly is to elect judges.  Unlike other states, this task falls squarely on the shoulders of the General Assembly and we must select judges of the highest character and ability.  If either condition is lacking, we must ask “is this candidate worthy of selection?”
    Such was the case on Monday, May 14th, when the House of Delegates chose not to elect Richmond prosecutor Tracy Thorne-Begland as a District Court Judge.  Advocates for Mr. Thorne-Begland point to his prosecutorial abilities, however, they ignore that as a naval officer in 1992, he violated clear military directives not to appear on television to advocate for a personal cause.  Nevertheless, Mr. Thorne-Begland made that appearance, ignoring the requirements of duty that he voluntarily took an oath to uphold.  We contend that Mr. Thorne-Begland exercised profoundly bad judgment in using his military office to advance a personal cause, in this case sexual orientation, on national television; an act he knew was prohibited.  
    Let’s begin with the oath those of us who served the nation in war and peace took when we were commissioned.  “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.”  A key word here is “duties” and among them are fidelity to rules and regulations of the military and support for the chain of command.  When an officer violates this fidelity for a personal cause, no matter how sincerely held, he has broken his trust with the service he has sworn to obey.  An officer who does so demonstrates exceptionally bad judgment.  Those who don’t think that oaths, discipline, and fidelity to the chain of command matter, fail to comprehend how the military must function if it is to be effective in combat, which is it’s raison d’être.  It may be difficult for someone who has not served to understand the depth to which we hold this oath, but it is profound.
    An officer shirks his duty when he willingly and knowingly violates a lawful directive of the military and his chain of command by appearing in the media to advocate for a personal cause he believes is more important than the oath he took.  The prohibition to “participate in any radio, television, or other program or group discussion as an advocate for or against a partisan political party, candidate, or cause” is unambiguous, yet Mr. Thorne-Begland violated it knowingly.  Some say, “Well, what about his First Amendment right to free speech?”  Simply put, when you join the military, you give up your right to free speech when it comes to good order and discipline.  You can’t say anything you want about any cause, no matter how deeply held, when, in doing so, you speak publicly in contravention to the policies of your service.  You can be sure that many of us who have served this nation have had times when we didn’t agree with our chain of command and in some cases may have felt the orders and requirements were misguided.  But no matter what side of an issue you take, you do not, as a military member, have the right to speak publicly against your service and chain of command to advance your personal beliefs.
    A case in point was the recent discharge of a young Marine sergeant who made disparaging comments about President Barack Obama, his Commander-in-Chief.  That sergeant may have felt, as Thorne-Begland did, that he was right in speaking out, but that Marine was wrong to do so and should have been discharged, as he was.  And if he ever becomes a lawyer, moves to Virginia, and seeks a judgeship, he shouldn’t be surprised when we don’t support him either.  In both cases, the proper course of action would have been to resign from the service, hang up the uniform, put on civilian garb, and speak to your heart’s content.    
    In the military, we take oaths, duty, good order and discipline very seriously because we know the important role they play in creating an effective fighting force.  We think no less of these values when selecting judges.  If you exhibit bad judgment and indiscipline, you shouldn’t be a judge. Mr. Thorne-Begland’s decision to go on national television to advocate for a personal cause in violation of his sworn duties to his service indicates poor judgment and a lack of regard for the institution he swore to serve and respect.  These aren’t the qualities we seek in a jurist.  
    Delegate (Colonel) Rich Anderson (R-51 and US Air Force Retired), Delegate (Commander) Mark Cole (R-88 and USNR Retired), Delegate (Lt. Commander) John Cosgrove (R-78 and USNR, Delegate (Colonel) Mark Dudenhefer (R-2 and US Marine Corps Retired, Delegate (Sergeant) Tim Hugo (R-40 and US Army Reserve), Delegate (Colonel) L. Scott Lingamfelter (R-31 and US Army Retired) and Delegate (Commander) Chris Stolle (R-83 and US Navy, Retired) all serve in the Virginia House of Delegates of the General Assembly.

  • Some military colonels are notorious blow-hards. Who cares what they think? The Prince William delegation of blow-hards were no exception. Thorne-Begland was not applying to be a colonel and he has an honorable discharge from the military.

    Jackson Miller should have thought for himself. He knows better than to be led astray by claptrap. I am sorry he fell for the military BS. In fact, after about 60 seconds into the speeches by both Anderson and Lingamfelter, one had to fight to keep eyes from glazing over. No real world points were made there.

    Thanks to Brian Schoeneman for an excellent post. Republicans should be thanking him. People like Brian are what is keeping the entire party from looking like a bunch of rubes on this issue.

  • JayD

    Gentlemen, please. Must we list for you America’s heroes that broke oaths & laws to speak out against injustice?

    Decorated pilot Thorne-Begland broke an oath by speaking against a policy (that no longer exists!) knowing his coming out in ‘92 would wreck his career. I call that an act of amazing courage, extraordinary character, and showing guts of real leadership ~ unfortunately all rare virtues displayed by legislators.

    As I read your justification, if Thorne-Begland were a private citizen in 1992 he would be a confirmed judge today.

    Odd it was this man’s service to country that now makes him unfit to hold a judgeship.

  • 540milotalon

    Bob Marshall is from Prince William County not Loundoun, makes me wonder how much else is wrong in this editorial report. Your comment ” he has earned the job” smacks of an entitlement mentality. I disagree, just when did you decide that appointments aren’t political? They have been for just about forever.

  • Edward White

    As one who is old enough to have been in the Navy when there were still smoke screens, it is nostalgic for me to see the fog thrown up by the House Republicans Veterans Caucus. They have been made painfully aware that they are riding in the caboose of history, and are steering a sinuous course trying to avoid the shots of their Governor, their A-G and their leading Senate candidate, plus the barrages from the public in general.

    Exposed behind the smoke is pure mindless bigotry.

    Well, at least they showed up and voted.

  • I just listened to phone message and Delegate Ransone did return my call. She explained she was absent because an emergency with her daughter. Funny how so many delegates family emergencies that same day. But she did emphatically state TWICE she did NOT support “that candidate” for judge.

    But we were told on her campaign web site this:

    “Margaret is a conservative Republican who will fight for liberty, our Virginia and U.S. Constitutions, and the rights of individuals and the states.”

    She have said she is a “conservative Republican who fight for liberty…..and the rights of individuals UNLESS THEY ARE GAY, BLACK, JEWISH OR HISPANIC OR NOT CHRISTIANS.”

    She is a disgrace to the Northern Neck and the Commonwealth.

  • Jessica Sandlin

    Moon-howler, JayD, Edward White- hear, hear! Even the title of their editorial was deliberately provocative- designed to distract from the real issue, the real perceived threat.

    Another point is this: we’re a big tent, and this discussion should happen privately within- and it’s okay to disagree about it! The lost voters some Rs think won’t matter? Just give it a few years- there won’t be an R under 30. It won’t be bearable to respond to stuff like this.

  • John E Greenbacker Jr.

    The simple fact is that this professional prosecutor, who was found qualified by both House and Senate Courts, lost his judicial appointment because he was gay and had the courage not to deny his nature. When the General Assembly allowed the Christian right to crucify him, they made our party look cheap and mean. Del. Marshall will learn soon enough that religious extremists cannot win a state-wide election in Virginia. Unfortunately, by that time the damage will have been done. This episode,following the ultrasound debacle, may have crippled the Republican Party’s brand seven months before the most important election of our lifetime, when the support of independent voters is essential to deny the state from Obama. The irony is that given his views on religion Thomas Jefferson couldn’t be nominated for dogcatcher on a Republican slate in his home state. But then again, religious zealots have always been blind.

  • Dave Cline

    I do not know any of the parties here…but after reading all this I want o caw my eyes out. I have a few things to say.

    1. Bob Marshall is a blow hard and a right wing zealot that seems to prefer theocracy over democracy in a secular society.

    2. Liberal media love to espouse him as the mouthpiece of the RPV as he’s loud and outspoken….but honestly….rarely emasses a legit following in the legislature. Allowing and participating in the capturing and refining of the narrative to make republicans look bad should not be engaged in by republicans.

    3. It was wrong of the author to impugn all the members who happened to vote the same as Marshall by implying that they all had like motives.

    4. A state rep, and several others (the retired officers serving in the house) have come on here and defended thier votes as not being motivated by homophobia or hate, or any of the other motivations attributed to Mr. Marshall….yet the author and others have all but ignored them and continued the “they’re all homophobes” arguments.

    5. BK….unless I missed it….has not defended the words or actions of Mr. Marshall…but has instead asked the author for evidence that the other members of the House voted as they did because Bob said so, or they agreed with him……I have likewise not seen any presentation of those facts.

    Since when do we impugn the motives of the majority of our caucus based sely on what the Richmod Times, other Liberal leaning news outlets…..and GASP…the New York Times???

    When in high school I was heavily involved in AFJROTC (I know toy soldiers…lol) …. But we were taught there, even in that most elementary stage of military preparation that political activism of any kind while in uniform or using the prestige of your position was a no no. We were taught that if a soldier or airman or sailor or marine felt so strongly about a political issue or candidate that they feel they must speak…that they should leave the military and the uniform behind and speak as your conscience dictates…..

    This man did not do that…he broke the rules…no matter the cause….and involved himself in political activism while in uniform, on TV. He knowingly broke the protocol and rules…why? Because he felt he knew the “greater good”.

    Now, being nominated for a judgeship….he promises to not involve himself in activism while a judge….and we’re supposed to believe him? Seriously, didn’t he already show a disregard for the rules before….when he felt he knew the greater good? Don’t you think there will be greater goods in his mind again?

    Decisions have consequences…..if he feels he did the right thing back then breaking the rules…..then he should be willing to accept any adverse consequences of it…..which in this case….happens to be a judgeship in VA.

    I would have voted no, as well.

  • Dave Cline

    And it has nothing to do with him being gay……it’s because he showed a disregard for rules and protocols to engage in activism despite knowing that was a no, no.

    Judges are in unique positions to further activist agendas….if he’s shown a willingness to do so inappropatly and unapologeticly in the past…..that’s the only real indicator I have as to what he might do n the future.

  • Dave Cline

    John Greenbacker….

    You’re making assumptions not in evidence. We can only be certain that Bob Marshall voted no because thee applicant was a gay…..because that’s the reason he himself gave…but as for that being the reason the others voted no or abstained (which in this is a no vote) …. We just don’t have that kinda evidence.

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