Virginia House panel welcomes first openly gay judge

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Local,Virginia,Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- A Republican-ruled legislative panel that vets judicial candidates was deferential and even supportive of a reappointment bid by Virginia's first openly gay judge who was rejected by the full House a year ago.

Members of a joint House and Senate subcommittee questioned Richmond General District Judge Tracy Thorne-Begland for nearly 40 minutes Monday, where eight others faced the panel for only a fraction of that time.

But questions during the lengthy appearance were supportive, allowing him to allay fears of conservative critics who opposed his appointment last year or otherwise denied it simply by not voting. Several conservatives pledged to support him.

Thorne-Begland spoke of his honorable discharge after a decorated tenure as a U.S. Navy officer, saying he wasn't aware of his sexual orientation when he joined the Navy.

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