A few days ago, always offensive Allen West (R-FL) said that workplace discrimination of LGBT people “don’t happen out here in the United States of America.” In an ironic bit of what I wish was performance art, the Virginia House of Delegates proved West wrong, by not giving a job to a very well-qualified nominee for a position of a judge, simply because the nominee is gay.
It wasn’t the first time that Tracy Thorne-Begland experienced workplace discrimination. After a 20-year career in the US Navy, Thorne-Begland was discharged for announcing that he was gay on TV, and this, in the minds of Delegate Bob Marshall, was the problem.
From WTVR, Richmond, VA:
Delegate Bob Marshall said he will seek to remove the name of Richmond prosecutor Tracy Thorne-Begland from a list of proposed District Court judicial appointments.
“I don’t even think it’s proper to put his name forward because of his behavior,” said Marshall, who called Thorne-Begland “a homosexual activist,” in a press release.
Thorne-Begland has been nominated to serve as a judge for Richmond’s General District Court, but, Marshall challenges the nomination on the grounds of the prosecutor’s sexual orientation.
“We have a constitution which says marriage is between one man and one woman and if he’s taking an oath, he has to uphold and defend that as a judge,” said Marshall.
“If his lifestyle is exactly contrary to that… I don’t see how he could do that,” he said.
This morning, the House voted 33-31, with 10 abstentions, to deny Thorne-Begland the judgeship.
Richmond’s Commonwealth Attorney, Michael N. Herring is embarrassed for his state,
“It’s hard to think about what happened in the General Assembly and not conclude that it’s a form of bigotry,” Herring told reporters during a lunchtime news conference outside his office at the John Marshall courthouse in Richmond.
Herring said Thorne-Begland is a fine “man, father, lawyer Navy pilot, and would have been an outstanding judge.” He said Thorne-Begland’s defeat in the Virginia House of Delegates is an “embarrassment” for the state.
“It casts a definite pall on the state,” he said, adding that he was not sure how Virginia will overcome the perception that it anti-gay.
It’s insulting to assume that as a judge, Thorne-Begland loses impartiality based on his sexuality. It’s extremely rare for a judge to hear cases on gay rights, but by assuming that he wouldn’t be impartial on those cases, mustn’t we also assume that anti-gay advocates would also be impartial? Issues involving religion are far more likely to come up. Should we also discriminate against all people who use religion as political motivation?
Unfortunately in the eyes of oppressors, the oppressed are one dimensional. It is impossible in their eyes, to separate the fact that one is a woman, minority or LGBT person from their professional lives. That, in their mind, is a skill solely acquired by straight white men.