General Assembly Votes to Ensure Judicial Integrity


May 15, 2012

Tuesday morning with the clock approaching 2:00, the House of Delegates voted to not appoint to a judgeship Tracy Thorne-Begland (see roll call vote). After spending more than twelve hours debating and voting on budget amendments and discussing issues in their respective caucuses, retired military members of the House led the charge during debate over Mr. Thorne-Begland, expressing serious concerns over his actions while a member of the U.S. Military.

As we posted late last week, Mr. Thorne-Begland has a long history of political activism and received an honorable discharge from the U.S. Navy after going on national television to announce that he had violated federal law, the so-called “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy enthusiastically signed into law by former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, in the early 1990s. More recently, he has made public statements that reveal a personal political agenda that runs contrary to the Virginia Constitution and statute. Many of these concerns did not come to light until after he had been deemed qualified to be a judge by the General Assembly’s Courts of Justice Committees.

Today, Virginia Democrats and Equality Virginia lashed out at General Assembly members and The Family Foundation for last night’s votes. Unable to answer the concerns about Mr. Thorne-Begland’s statements, they have predictably resorted to name-calling. Democrat Party of Virginia Chairman Brian Moran said:

It is difficult to consider last night’s vote without using the word “bigoted,” just as it’s difficult to consider this period of unified Republican government without using the word “disaster.”

Senator Donald McEachin (D-8, Richmond), who put forth Mr. Thorne-Begland’s name to be a judge in the first place, said:

The GOP took Virginia back to the bigotry and mean-spirited prejudice of the 1960s.

Delegate Mark D. Sickles, (D-43, Fairfax) said in a statement:

And, it shows that legislators are more concerned about the Family Foundation scorecard than Richmond’s District Court.

Equality Virginia also took aim at The Family Foundation, saying:

(The legislature) allowed fear mongering and shrill personal attacks by the Family Foundation … to derail Richmond lawyer Tracy Thorne-Begland’s election to the bench simply because he is an out gay man.

Of course, our position since this was first brought to our attention last week has been concern about public statements and political activity, and a violation of the military oath, that demonstrate a willingness to put a personal political agenda above all else. That was our concern. On Friday, Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas) also announced public concerns over the nomination and spoke in opposition to it during last night’s debate.

Former military members of the House of Delegates, led by Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-31, Woodbridge), Rich Anderson (R-51, Woodbridge) and Mark Dudenhefer (R-2, Stafford), spoke passionately during the House floor debate about their concern over Thorne-Begland’s violation of his military oath. Each made the case that the real issues here concerned integrity, truth, duty and an oath of office. The integrity of the courts was at stake with this vote, they argued.

Several legislators worked for several days to bring to light the concerns over this nomination. We thank each of those legislators who worked both behind the scenes and took strong public stands in the face of vile attacks by liberals.

As has been the case almost since the day after conservatives won majorities in the House of Delegates and Virginia Senate in November, Virginia liberals have been on the rhetorical attack. Regardless of the issue, they resort to mean-spirited name-calling, misinformation and bullying. They redefine issues and assert false motivations to their opponents. After losing election after election, you would think Virginia’s Left would finally figure out that they are on the wrong side of these issues, but with the help of some in the Mainstream Media and the editorial pages, they continue to attack pro-family legislators simply for standing up for the truth. Their hope is, of course, that Virginians will be bullied into silence on these important issues.

The General Assembly is tasked with reviewing and certifying judges. If that is little more than a rubber stamp, it means nothing. It has a duty to block judges deemed unqualified or unfit for the bench. Last night, legislators simply did their job.

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31 Responses to “General Assembly Votes to Ensure Judicial Integrity”

  1. Mark Siegel says:

    Quite simply, the Family Foundation and your policy partners represent everything that turned me against Republicans. When the GOP started pandering to the likes of you people, that was the last straw.

    You say you’re driven by Christian values. Ok, I’ll ask what I’ve asked you before many times and never received an answer. Why do you not seek legislation that forbids those who have divorced their spouses from remarrying? After all, those who do are facilitating serial adultry. Why do you not shun business owners who force their workers to toil on the Sabbath so that the executives and shareholers can stay home with their families and watch their portfolios grow while the workers miss valuable time with their families? Are these not Sabbath violations? The Bible has much more to say about these trasgressions than they do about homosexuality. You people rank-order sin according to your own comfort level. Not according to God’s word.

    The fact is, Christian ethics are just guise for your twisted doctrine. And I will call you out on it at every opportunity.

    • familyfoundation says:

      Mr. Siegal: We’ve answered this several times but you want to continue to disingenuously redefine the issue and assign motives where none belong to score points; basically, demagogue. We do not pick and choose as you suggest. We are not attempting to stop anyone from living how they want to live. But we DO want to protect the definition of marriage as it has been understood by ALL faiths for thousands of years. Do we like divorce? No. We have supported legislation to encourage healthy marriages (but then you would accuse of us of some type of bigotry or injection of religion into the state, I’m sure, for doing that, too). But divorce does not redefine marriage as it is understood as between one man and one woman. You and others on the Left continue to purposefully misrepresent what we stand for. You do so because you ascribe to a leftist agenda, which is your right, but you cannot accomplish it because America (and Virginia) are essentially center-right, so result to mischaracterizing your opponents in order to demonize them. If we were as powerful and held the agenda you say we do, we would have done everything you listed above. But that is not our agenda. Thank you for your participation on our blog. You continue to be welcome here. – Steve, The Admin

      • Bonnie Kettlewell says:

        Your claim that marriage has been between one man and one woman in ALL faiths for thousands of years is ludicrous. Abraham had two wives. Until Utah wanted to be admitted to the US as a state, Mormons had multiple wives. Polygamy is allowed under Islam. Please don’t lie in support of your bigotry. It makes Jesus weep.

      • Harsanyi_Janos says:

        Steve, I grew up in the Hungarian Reformed Church and have, of course, read the Bible many times. If you wish to apply the Bible’s teachings why not start with Deuteronomy 22. Here we see that it is God’s law that adulterers be killed (Deuteronomy 22:22), and raped women be killed unless they cry out loud enough (Deuteronomy 22:23-24). While we know that God feels that homosexuality is an abomination (Deuteronomy 23:17-18), we should also recall that a man wearing a dress is equally bad (Deuteronomy 22:5). Why not try to legislate some of this thing?

      • edward says:

        … also, since adultery is a crime in Virginia, and since adultery is a violation of an important oath, and since adultery frequently leads to family breakdown and harm to the lives of children (both pre-born and already born) … will VFF be working hard to remove from all public offices – elected and appointed – anyone who has been involved with adultery?

      • Claire P says:

        First, let’s define the difference between Leftist, liberal, and Democrat.
        Left-wings or leftists are generally seen as those who support social reform towards an egalitarian society. Modern leftism is usually associated with Keynesian economics, Marxism, socialism, and industrial democracy in the economic sphere. In the social sphere, modern leftism is associated with progressivism (abolition, women’s suffrage/rights, civil rights, opposition to the death penalty, recognition of same-sex marriage, and abortion rights). The original leftist movement (French Revolution) was anti-clerical, that is, against the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, however modern leftist movements can be be associated with religion, or against it in the case of the USSR.
        Liberalism can refer to both economic and social policies. Liberalism is often focused on liberty and equality and covers a wide range of views. Some of these more prominent views include; constitutionalism, a representative democracy with fair, free, and competitive elections, human rights, capitalism, and freedom of religion. Yes, religious freedom is seen as a “liberal” cause. Liberalism in economics often promotes capitalism and laissez-faire economies.
        Finally, we have the Democratic Party. Based on comments made on this website, I would guess that The Family Foundation is decidedly anti-Democrat. Not to mention anti-left (presumably right) and anti-liberal (presumably conservative). The Democratic Party tends to support reducing economic inequality, affordable health care, equal opportunity, LGBT rights, and Israel. The Democratic Party tends to remain split on the invasion of Afghanistan, the death penalty, abortion, and same-sex marriage.
        Throughout these posts, it seems rather obvious that the FFV is uneducated about modern political theory, especially when they use buzzwords such as “leftist” and “liberal.” Many of the Democratic Party and liberal views seem to support a functioning family unit, such as standard living conditions, health care, and education. It seems to me that the FFV and the Virginia republicans seem more concerned with protecting their “family,” while not doing anything to help children regardless of their family situation.

  2. bill harrison says:

    Would the same people condeming Thorne-Begland for challenging the “don’t ask, don’t tell policy” also condem Rosa Parks? They both stood up to unjust laws. The Family Foundation continues to try and portray gay and lesbian people as anti-family and ridicule our relationships. With a 50% divorce rate among heterosexuals, it looks like you might want to clean out your own houses before cleaning anyone else’s. Actually, you could learn a thing or two about relationships from gay people. You have all the support in the world with your marraiges, yet they continually fail. But I guess that is the fault of because of gay people,too.

    • Bonnie Kettlewell says:

      The Family Foundation may want to back off on their claim that Mr. Thorne-Begland “violated his military oath.” Mr. Thorne-Begland was honorably discharged from the Navy. TFF’s statements are libelous on their face.

  3. B.L. Horrigan says:

    Happy to no longer be a VA resident, with bigoted groups like this calling the shot in its politics. Looking forward to you all being voted out of office by the sane Virginians left.

  4. John says:

    This is absolutely crazy. You claim that being center-right makes you virtuous, but it simply means that in order for there to be societal justice you will be the people who have to be dragged kicking and screaming from the dark ages. You responded earlier to an individual about gay marriage that “But we DO want to protect the definition of marriage as it has been understood by ALL faiths for thousands of years.” Question: does something become right and just because it is the way it has been done for a long time? Isn’t this what is called the “Appeal to tradition” fallacy?
    From what I can tell, you have used your influence to disqualify a potential jurist whose expertise was not questioned, because he had violated a Federal law that is no longer on the books because it was considered ethically unsound. This is someone who spent two decades serving his country and paying taxes but having to hide who he was. Am I wrong about any of this? In what way then are the comments made about your organization to the press uncalled for?

    • familyfoundation says:

      John: I did not say being center-right anyone virtuous. Again, a leftist tactic of asserting what you want your opposition to mean. Something that has been done for a long time does not mean it is just, to be sure. However, marriage has always been understood to be between one man and one woman for thousands of years — from the beginning of civilization — because men and women were by nature created to be with each other to procreate and raise families. Finally, and we’ve addressed this several times, it is the nominee’s activism and philosophy which we objected to. Some of that was exemplified in his past actions. Some of the biggest opponents of his in the House were former military. But to say we cannot oppose people because of their philosophy, and for those with opposite views to call us bigots, doesn’t make us the hypocrites. I wonder how many of the people leaving comments here opposed Clarence Thomas, Robert Bork, Miguel Estrada, Janice Rogers Brown and others to federal courts or the Supreme Court because of their philosophy. If the nominee had not “come out” and still was active and outspoken on the issues contrary to Virginia law and constitution we would have opposed him. – Steve, The Admin

      • John says:

        1) In your article you state the left is “on the wrong side in these issues.” If you were not implying that the right is on the correct and virtuous side, I apologize, and you can say you are not.
        2)”However, marriage has always been understood to be between one man and one woman for thousands of years — from the beginning of civilization — because men and women were by nature created to be with each other to procreate and raise families.” First of all, it has not always been understood to be between ONE man and ONE woman. To say that discounts everything but Western Civilization. Granted, European history has a one man/one woman history…but that was history. In Europe, this is no longer an issue. As for your procreation observations…are you suggesting that procreation is the only reason to get married? My wife and I don’t have kids yet. Does that mean we aren’t married, or shouldn’t be? Additionally, knowing what I know now about the joy of being married, I have to say that an organization were to somehow get in the way of my marriage and say something about how my wife and I lived our lives “Bigot” would be the most polite thing to come out of my mouth. Your influence is affecting people’s lives, and not in a positive way.
        3)Exemplified by his actions? What about the action of serving in a military despite being gay. He served, paid taxes, and broke an unjust law for which he was–wait for it–honorably discharged. If the discharge was dishonorable, I would be less prone to call this out as blatant homophobia and bigotry, but, well, there it is. The man has opinions, and he is also a great candidate for a judgeship because of his expertise. You bring up Clarence Thomas in your post, who did not recuse himself in the Affordable Health Care Act proceedings despite his wife being paid a considerable sum of money for her work on a foundation that is utterly opposed to the Health Care Act. Are you saying Justice Thomas’s act is defensible but Mr. Thorne-Begland’s opinions are not? By the way, people were not opposed to Clarence Thomas getting on the court because of a philosophy, it was his treatment of his female subordinates that was disturbing.

        • familyfoundation says:

          John: Clarence Thomas was persecuted because his philosophy did not fit the template that all minorities have to think a certain way. As for not recusing himself, what his wife does is her business. But Elena Kagan actually DID work on the health care bill and DID not recuse herself. – Steve, The Admin

          • Claire says:

            Clarence Thomas was not persecuted. Clarence Thomas was heavily questioned, as was Anita Hill, as to the allegations of sexual harassment. And while not knowing Justice Thomas personally, I would think he too would be wary of the potential scandal if a Supreme Court Justice was found to have had inappropriate conduct in their past. Congress did approve him to the bench, which would lead one to assume they had confidence that Justice Thomas did not act inappropriately. And in his time on the bench, Justice Thomas has shown admirable conduct on the bench and devotion to upholding the Constitution which anyone, regardless of their political affiliation, can admire.

  5. Bill says:

    I do not understand groups such as this. You support legislation on things like banning abortion but do not push for increased funding for prenatal care or health care for infants or children. You hate abortion but will not allow gay couples in committed relationships to adopt the unwanted children that are allegedly so important to you. You seem to be a “Christian” organization but are so unchristian in your actions. Who would Christ discriminate against? Jesus was a radical and a liberal in his day, I think that is forgotten by these kind of family “Christian” groups.

  6. edward says:

    From what has been reported, that we’ve been able to read, it appears that VFF’s untruthful extremism in this instance is a perverse abomination in light of ‘common sense Virginians’ values that aim for mutual respect for those who work hard, support their families, and serve in their communities. Certainly Mr Thorne-Begland has worked hard, supported his family, and served his community. Virginians with common sense values respect that, and believe that should not become a liability or a slur against them. VFF appears perversely deviant from these common sense Virginia values; VFF appears to prefer that hard work, family support, and community care become a liability, and a slur, when those Virginia virtues are shown by gay people, and other people they don’t like. When good things are done by people VFF doesen’t like, they call those ‘virtues’, ‘vices’. That is manifestly ‘bearing false witness’. The Hebrew and Christian scriptures explicitly announce that ‘bearing false witness’ is a violation of commandments delivered directly from God. VFF claims that Mr Thorne-Begland might not honor his oath to uphold the Constitution. Speculation without evidence is false witness. Failing to respect Mr Thorne-Begland’s contributions to professional life, family life, and community life is false witness. By bearing false witness, VFF is in explicit violation of God’s commandment.

    Further, although VFF shouts loudly to raise awareness about pre-born human life – that we might praise – VFF doesn’t even peep when Republicans evince plans that would abandon the poor, the weak, to sick, the frail elderly, the vulnerable and disliked… and infants and children. Is it hypocrisy to shout about the pre-born, and not even peep about the well-being of the already born? Certainly the Christian scriptures, and other scriptures, and Virginia common sense consider that hypocrisy: ‘blind guides’ leading on the way to perdition.

    Further, why won’t VFF disclose all its donors – individuals, congregations, businesses, political groups, etc? Don’t Virginians deserve to know who support VFFs extremism, bearing false witness, and hypocrisy?

    So, several questions to VFF:

    why does VFF manufacture, or repeat, half-truths, opinion claiming to be commonly observable fact, and other forms of bearing false witness?

    why does VFF fail to respect the lives of all Virginians who work hard, support their families, and care for their communities?

    why does VFF support policies and laws that have the effect of harming the weak, the sick, the frail elderly, the poor, … and infants and children ( in such a way that VFF obviously champions the pre-born, while abandoning the already born)?

    why does not VFF transparently disclose all its donors?

    does VFF stand in awe and humility before God?

    • edward says:

      More scriptural witness that should concern VFF:

      “There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes,

      a lying tongue,

      and hands that shed innocent blood,

      a heart that devises wicked plans,

      feet that make haste to run to evil,

      a false witness who breathes out lies, and

      one who sows discord among brothers.
      —Proverbs 6:16–19

    • Bonnie Kettlewell says:

      Edward, I just want to applaud you for this excellent post. Thank you.

  7. Robert Brady says:

    As a life-long committed Christian approaching the end of my military career, I read with dismay what you did to my fellow-veteran. And you even have the audacity to boast about it in your headlines. What amazes me isn’t that so many people are angry with your group and sick to death of groups that claim to be following Jesus through political conservatism – no, what amazes me is that MORE people haven’t told us to sit down and shut up. Sadly, our non-believing fellow-citizens are more tolerant of us and our free speech rights than we are of them. Personally, I would appreciate it if you would stop saying you’re a voice for bible-believing Christianity – you certainly don’t speak for me.

    • John says:

      When Democrats brag it is for health care victories and killing terrorists. When Republicans brag, it is for keeping gay people from meaningful work. Way to spike the football Family Foundation!

    • L Worley says:

      Well said, Robert Brady

  8. Seb M says:

    I am from England and wow am I proud to be British. Things are not perfect but every mainstream party and pretty much every charity understands the need for gender and sexual liberalisation (pertaining to abortions and gay marriages). Even David Cameron, our prime minster and leader of the conservative party, decided to snub the Republicans in a recent visit to America. We may be a tiny little island compared to America but us Brits can teach USA quite a lot. Just know that many of us in England are hoping that Obama wins in November. The only president ever (to my knowledge, I am not American so I may be wrong) to openly support gay marriage, to support a health care system covering the whole of America. Oh wait, Mitt Romney supported a similar health care reform in the past, before he changes his opinions to suit the political tide, like the odious bigoted demagogue he is.

  9. John says:

    The most disappointing thing about all of this is that you actually believe it. You actually believe that a homosexual man is incapable of enforcing the law as a judge. You believe this in spite of a decorated career first defending this nation through honorable military service and second by protecting this Commonwealth as a prosecutor.

    You accuse everyone of “name calling” but what you do is worse. You sum up an entire man’s life in one word – “gay.” The worst part is that you believe that characterization is correct and you believe it with every fiber of your soul.

    I deeply disagree and I always will. I just hope this Commonwealth develops the courage to protect its loyal public servants and to stand up to organizations like yours. I hope we can recognize the loudest voice isn’t always the wisest.

  10. David says:

    Asking one more time, under what circumstances would the Family Foundation accept an openly gay judicial candidate?

  11. David says:

    Or should we extrapolate from the following quote that the VFF would oppose ANY openly gay judicial candidate:

    “If the nominee had not “come out”…”

  12. David says:

    By the way, just wanted to congratulate you on the tone of your blog. I used to read the VFF’s blog regularly, but gave up because I found it to be increasingly bitter and unchristian in its tone. You’ve done much to improve the tone of this blog and for that I applaud you.

  13. David says:

    And another thing…one facet of your opposition to this candidate is his vocal opposition of a particular law. A few questions arise from this:

    1. The Family Foundation opposed several court rulings in the Lisa Miller case. Doesn’t the Family Foundation therefore advocate disobedience of the law?

    2. According to your criteria, no agent of the Family Foundation would ever be qualified for judgeship because of a history of advocacy.

  14. David says:

    I reckon you’ve gone on to another topic rather than answer my question, which is entirely germane to this argument. Under what circumstances would the Family Foundation accept, or not oppose, an openly gay judicial candidate? Are you afraid to answer the question because it will undermine the argument you presented?

  15. Karen says:

    Dear Family Foundation,
    I began to become very discouraged this spring as I watched the GOP presidential debates, since I began to ponder, “Where did all the Christians go?” The vitriole I saw in the speeches of “Christians” Gingrich and Santorum were antithetical to anything I ever learned as a Christian. Thankfully, I was prompted to reread the Gospels to see what I had missed, and I came to the conclusion that the FF brand of Christianity isn’t in there! How are you embodying “Love one another?” Or how about “Love your neighbor as yourself” – remember that? Or, “Love the sinner. Forgive the sin?” I am saddened that the beautiful, revolutionary message of Jesus Christ is being so warped,twisted, or ignored by organizations like yours. You are not helping society, the community or the world.

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