May 18, 2012

Regarding the May 16 front-page article “Divisive close for Virginia assembly”:

I remember watching Ted Koppel interview Tracy Thorne-Begland on “Nightline” in 1992. Mr. Thorne-Begland was a decorated Navy fighter pilot whose integrity led him to “come out” — and to provide a face to thousands of gay Americans serving in the U.S. military. I did not know Mr. Thorne-Begland at that time, but I admired his courage and honesty.

I now know him and his longtime partner as the committed parents of two beautiful kids. I know his leadership as the fair-minded chief deputy commonwealth’s attorney in Richmond. The rejection of his candidacy for a judgeship by Republicans in the Virginia General Assembly — solely because he is a gay man — is despicable.

In 1997, I became the first openly gay elected official in Virginia. It is past time for the General Assembly to catch up to this nation’s businesses, where 86 percent of 2012 Fortune 500 companies include “sexual orientation” in their nondiscrimination policies.

When the workplace nondiscrimination bill comes before the assembly yet again, legislators voting no will again ask, “Where is the evidence of discrimination?” They need only look in the mirror.

Jay Fisette, Arlington

The writer, a Democrat, is a member of the Arlington County Board.

Last week, Republican legislators in Virginia blocked the nomination of Tracy Thorne-Begland for a judgeship, a move that The Post correctly called bigotry [“Bigotry’s triumph,” editorial, May 16]. Opponents of Mr. Thorne-Begland, who is gay and a friend of mine, decried him as an “activist.”

By that standard, in 1961, after decades of fighting to end segregation, activist Thurgood Marshall would never have been named a federal judge. Nor would he have been appointed a Supreme Court justice in 1967.

Bob Witeck, Arlington