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Judge H. Lee Sarokin Headshot

No White, Republican, Heterosexual, Church-Going, Male Prosecutor is Qualified for a Judgeship in Virginia

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Virginia's Republican-controlled House rejected the judicial nomination of a gay Richmond prosecutor on the grounds that his past "indicated that he would press an activist agenda from the bench." Mr. Thorne-Begland, the nominee, had been a fighter pilot and Navy officer before serving as a prosecutor for a number of years. He was a vocal and active supporter of gay rights.

So let's carry this premise out to its logical and ridiculous conclusion. Because Mr. Thorne-Begland is a gay and was active in supporting and advancing gay rights he is disqualified from serving as a judge on the grounds he "might" advance his gay agenda as a judge. In other words, his affiliation with the gay community makes his future decisions suspect. It follows that no white should be permitted to serve because he might rule for whites in a case claiming race discrimination against blacks. No Republican should be permitted to serve because he might rule for Republicans in redistricting or voting rights cases. No man should be permitted to serve because he might favor men in claims of sexual harassment by women against men. No church-going person should be permitted to serve because he might rule in favor of church or religious institutions on the issue of church/state separation. No prosecutor should be permitted to serve because he might favor the prosecution over the defense in a criminal trial. No heterosexual should be permitted to serve because he might rule against gay and lesbian claimants.

No one comes to a judgeship without prior experience and partisan activity of some sort. We would not want persons to serve in the judiciary if they came without beliefs or commitments -- and choose only those with a blank slate. Virtually everyone has religious, political, ethnic, social and other affiliations. If such affiliations serve as disqualifiers, then all candidates would be disqualified. Only those who have demonstrated an inability or an unwillingness to put aside their own views and to apply the law should be rejected. I suspect that if this candidate had been a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage there would have been no fear of his "activist agenda". One would think that being an advocate for civil rights and equality would enhance rather than detract from one's qualifications as a judge. It isn't activism that opponents of this candidate fear -- but rather decisions with which they do not agree.

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