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Thorne-Begland appointed to judgeship

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – Tracy Thorne-Begland was appointed to a General District Court judgeship, Bevill Dean, Clerk of the Richmond Circuit Court, confirmed to CBS 6.

“I am humbled by the Circuit Court’s decision,” said Thorne-Begland in a statement to the media.”

“I look forward to serving the citizens of the City of Richmond as a jurist, and over the coming months, I hope that my service provides comfort to all Virginians that I remain committed to the faithful application of the laws and Constitutions of Virginia and the United States of America.”

Michael Herring, Richmond’s Commonwealth Attorney, said that they learned about the decision this afternoon. “The office, it was a priceless moment, after conferring with Tracy, we walked out and they erupted in applause.”

“He was beaming, he was humbled by it all,”  said Herring. “The public’s reaction to his candidacy is certainly a measure, or some indication, of the public’s attitude of gay people serving in office.”

“It’s a great day for the city,” said Herring. “He’s a wonderful man, a talented lawyer and he’s going to be a great judge.”

On May 15, the General Assembly voted down Begland’s nomination 33-31 with 10 abstentions. He needed 51 votes. This week five Richmond attorneys from some of the cities largest law firms sent a letter to the presiding district court judge, supporting Thorne-Begland’s appointment to the general district courts.

This news came in just as the Pentagon announced its first ever salute of gay military members in an event to be held during the month of June–which is celebrated internationally as gay Pride month.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” was repealed in September 2011, a law enacted in 1993 that resulted in about 13,000 military members losing their jobs. Thorne-Begland was known for his staged, outspoken event on national television, when he came out as a gay serving in the military.

This is an interim position however, and the judgeship will again come before the General Assembly next year.

In a press release Sen. Donald McEachin said he applauded the Richmond Circuit Court judges for their appointment.

[CLICK HERE: Read Tracy Thorne-Begland appointment order]

“I applaud the circuit court judges for recognizing Mr. Thorne-Begland’s skill, qualifications and competency and putting aside bigotry, prejudice and false excuses. I have always had and continue to have the utmost confidence in Mr. Thorne-Begland’s ability to serve our community and I am gratified to see that the circuit court judges share my confidence,” the statement read.

Thorne-Begland was criticized for his gay rights activism by Del. Bob Marshall (R -Manassas)who wanted Thorne-Begland removed from consideration because of the prosecutor’s past involvement with the gay rights movement. [COMPLETE COVERAGE: Openly gay prosecutor denied judgeship]

“We appointed the judges who appointed him. So they are calling into question our own judgment. That is not smart, on the part of these circuit court judges,” said Del. Marshall in a phone interview with CBS 6. “To place someone on the board like that who, when he was offered an opportunity to rebut a presumption that he wasn’t committing a felony, under the uniform code of military justice, declined to do so, is a disgrace.”

“The Governor believes Mr. Thorne-Begland is well-qualified to serve on the bench,” Tucker Martin, spokesperson for Gov. Bob McDonnell, said in a written statement. “He congratulates him on the appointment.”

Richmond Commonwealth’s attorney Mike Herring said that Chris Bullard, who has worked in the office’s narcotics division, will take over Thorne-Begland’s post as chief deputy commonwealth’s attorney.

The position begins July 1.

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

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