Richmond, Virginia – The Commonwealth of Virginia has sworn in its first openly homosexual judge, according to reports.
A crowd of approximately 200 onlookers attended the ceremony for Tracy Thorne-Begland on Friday, including his two twin sons and his homosexual partner, Michael.
Begland had faced opposition in the legislature the year prior when lawmakers struck down his nomination because they believed that he had been deceitful about his homosexuality when he served in the Armed Forces. According to reports, in the 1980′s, Begland failed to disclose his sexuality when he enlisted in the Navy.
In 1992, he revealed that he was a homosexual in an episode of Nightline, during which he spoke against the then proposed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Two years later, Begland was honorably discharged from the U.S. military.
In January of this year, lawmakers voted to appoint him to the General District Court, but not without much disagreement. A reported half of the Republican Caucus walked out during the vote and refused to participate. The Senate then voted 28 to 0 to put Begland on the bench, but not after 12 of the 20 Republicans present also walked out of the room. Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr., a Republican that favored the nominee, had urged those who opposed Begland to simply leave the room rather than vote no. The House also passed the nomination 66 to 28.
Republican Delegate David Albo told reporters that sexuality had no bearing in his vote.
“I’ve always thought he’s a great lawyer, highly respected in the area,” he stated. “I could give a hoot whether he’s gay or not.”
However, Delegate Robert Marshall chastised his fellow Republicans for turning their backs on morality.
“Republicans in Washington have abandoned their opposition to taxes, and Republicans in Richmond have thrown away a significant portion of their social issue base,” he lamented. “What do Republicans stand for?”
Begland was forthright about his sexuality during one of the hearings.
“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,” Begland added. “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.”
His swearing-in ceremony took place in the Richmond City Council chambers on Friday. Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones was among those present at the event.