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Mitt Romney Campaign Refuses To Weigh In On Virginia's Rejection Of Gay Judicial Nominee

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Candidate Mitt Romney has kept mum about the Virginia legislature's nixing of Tracy Thorne-Begland's judicial appointment.
Candidate Mitt Romney has kept mum about the Virginia legislature's nixing of Tracy Thorne-Begland's judicial appointment.

On Wednesday, the Romney campaign declined to weigh in on the Virginia legislature's rejection of Tracy Thorne-Begland, an openly gay prosecutor, for a judicial post.

Begland is a former fighter pilot and Navy officer who was discharged from the armed forces because of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. He had bipartisan support from the Courts of Justice Committee, which vets judicial appointments. But a last-minute lobbying effort by social conservative lawmakers and the conservative advocacy group Family Foundation doomed Begland's nomination, which failed to garner the majority votes needed in the 100-member House of Delegates. The vote happened just after 1 a.m. on Tuesday.

Del. Bob Marshall (R-Manassas), who led the opposition to the nomination, said he did not believe Begland could be an impartial judge because of his sexual orientation.

"Marriage is between one man and one woman, and the the applicant has represented himself in public in a relationship that we don't recognize in Virginia," Marshall said in an interview with WRIC, the ABC affiliate in Richmond.

In an interview with Ryan Nobles of NBC12 in Richmond on Wednesday, Stephanie Cutter, Barack Obama's deputy campaign manager, tried to get the Romney campaign to weigh in on the controversy.

“When things like this happen in this country and specifically Virginia, it turns people off,” Cutter said. ”The man is overly qualified to be a judge and this is a real leadership moment for some people in Virginia.”

“It is an opportunity for Mitt Romney to stand up and say what the legislature did is just plain wrong,” she added. ”I don’t know if he will show that type of leadership, he hasn't so far."

When reached for comment by NBC12, a representative of the Romney campaign refused to address the issue.

"This is yet another example of how President Obama and his campaign would rather talk about anything other than his failed economic record,” said Curt Cashour, a Romney campaign spokesman.

In a statement, Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell seemed to condemn the vote, saying, "In my consideration of judicial candidates I only consider the individual's ability to do the job well. If anyone voted against Mr. Thorne-Begland because of his sexual orientation, that would be very disappointing and unacceptable."

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican who is running to be Virginia's next governor, said sexual orientation should not be a "deciding factor" in judicial nominations, although he still expressed reservations about Thorne-Begland. Cuccinelli "indirectly referred to Thorne-Begland's coming out after taking an oath to serve," and his "public opposition to Cuccinelli's letter to the state's public colleges advising them that they could not include sexual orientation as part of their anti-discrimination hiring policies," according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, a Republican who is also vying for governor, said through a spokeswoman, "The lieutenant governor has always believed that judicial appointments should be made on the basis of merit and qualification, and no other consideration, personal or political, should be a factor."

Watch NBC12's interview with Cutter:

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