“Because of our efforts, he will be watched very closely in the coming years, particularly if he is elevated to any higher court in the future,” Cobb said.
The issue emerged in Richmond last month just as same-sex marriage was becoming a hot topic in the presidential race. Democrats are hoping that and other hot-button issues will move swing voters away from Republicans in the fall.
Marshall, meanwhile, who lost to former governor George Allen in Tuesday’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate, had tried to use the issue against Allen, who said sexual orientation should not be a factor in selecting judges.
In a letter sent to the Republican caucus late last month, Morris said he had a change of heart about Thorne-Begland after doing some research. He concluded that Thorne-Begland’s “Nightline” appearance had not violated military regulations because he was not in uniform.
“My initial opposition to Mr. Thorne-Begland had nothing to do with his sexual orientation but was based on the belief that Mr. Thorne-Begland went on national television in his Navy uniform and spoke against standing Navy policy, which would be a violation of Navy regulations and a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) because of the prohibition of being in uniform,” Morris wrote in the letter.
Thorne-Begland will need more than one about-face to survive another vote in the General Assembly. He needed 51 votes in the 100-member House to win appointment and received 33 in May. The Senate never voted on the matter.
“I would encourage those other legislators who dismissed Mr. Thorne-Begland’s judicial nomination to follow Delegate Morris’s lead and to research the actual record,” said Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico). “I am certain they will come to the same thoughtful conclusion he did.”
Marshall was unswayed, saying that if Thorne-Begland was engaged in homosexual sex while in the military, he’s guilty of a felony.
“Sodomy is still a felony under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, today, as we speak,” Marshall said.