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Commonwealth’s Attorney calls state judicial vote ‘bigotry’

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Herring blasted state lawmakers who voted to reject openly-gay deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Tracy Thorne-Begland’s nomination to be a Richmond General District Court judge.

“It is hard to think about what happened at the General Assembly and not conclude that it is a form of bigotry,” said Herring during a Tuesday morning news conference. “Anytime my elected officials exercise in behavior that is bigoted, it embarrasses me.”

Earlier Tuesday morning, state delegates voted down Begland’s nomination. Thirty-three delegates voted for Begland, 31 voted against him.  Ten delegates abstained from the vote, 26 delegates do not vote at all. Begland needed 51 votes to become a judge.

CBS 6 reporter Angela Pellerano asked Herring why he thought 36 lawmakers abstained or did not take part in Tuesday morning’s vote.

“They did not want to be on record, they didn’t want to stand up in the way Manoli Loupassi (a Republican delegate who co-sponsored Begland’s nomination) did for a man who would have been a wonderful judge,” Herring replied. “If there’s a tough call to make, you make the tough call, you draw the criticism, you move on to the next decision. You don’t duck the call.”

Over the weekend state Del. Bob Marshall (R -Manassas) said he wanted Thorne-Begland removed from consideration because of the prosecutor’s past involvement with the gay rights movement, most notably his network interview about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“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.

Herring addressed concerns that Thorne-Begland would advocate a gay-activist agenda while serving on the bench.

“I’m not sure I know what that means,” said Herring seeming frustrated. “I would imagine that Tracy, like any other judge in the Commonwealth, would treat gay victims, witnesses and defendants the same way they would those people if they were hetero-sexual.”

Herring said Thorne-Begland took the rejection vote professionally and came to the office Tuesday morning ready to work.

This is a developing story. Visit WTVR.com and watch CBS 6 News for updates.

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