Va. Circuit Court Approves Appointment of Openly Gay District Judge

Circuit Court judges in Richmond, Va., have approved the appointment of openly gay prosecutor Tracy Thorne-Begland to the bench, just days after five major area law firms submitted a letter of support for him and a month after the General Assembly had originally rejected his nomination.

Thorne-Begland's appointment as a District Court judge will only last until the General Assembly reconvenes, at which point they'll vote to decide whether to keep him.

For now, his appointment ends a lengthy debate over whether legislators' rejection of him was in part because of his sexual orientation or because of his record.

Opponents maintained that they objected to his public support of gay rights and his outspokenness against the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Thorne-Begland was serving as a naval officer when he came out publicly 20 years ago against it.

When the General Assembly reconvenes, Thorne-Begland will need at least 51 votes in the 100-member House to capture the nomination; last month, he received only 31.