Justice Rolling Down Like Waters
The heavens opened last week in Virginia and justice came pouring down.
That’s the only way I know how to describe the amount of good news we received.
On Tuesday, the McGuire Veterans Medical Center sponsored its first Equality Day. Representatives from various LGBT and LBGT-related organizations spent four hours answering questions and sharing resources with staff and clients at McGuire.
Then Thursday. . . . well, Thursday is a day I will long remember. That it was Flag Day just made it more special.
First, the front page of the Richmond Times-Dispatch carried this headline: “Delegate Reverses Self on Judgeship.” The judgeship in question: Tracy Thorne-Begland’s appointment to the District Court bench in Richmond, earlier blocked by Del. Bob Marshall and other Republicans in the House of Delegates. You can read the story here.
Now, after a careful review of all the facts, a very brave, principled man, Del. Richard L. Morris, R-Isle of Wight (pictured right), decided his vote against Tracy had been wrong. And he did not just tell a few folks about it, he wrote a carefully-reasoned, well-researched four-page letter to all his Republican caucus colleagues telling them the true facts and saying why Tracy deserved appointment. You can read his letter here.
It is worth noting that Mr. Morris had, during an earlier committee vote, supported Tracy. However after being told by Del. Marshall and others—falsely—that Tracy had spoken publicly against Navy policy prohibiting service by LGBT persons while he was in uniform, Morris voted against the appointment. Morris is himself a criminal defense lawyer specializing in military law who spent 21 of his 22 years in the Navy involved with military justice. He was sensitive to the alleged violation of the military code of conduct.
But, as Morris learned, when he conducted his own thorough review, only one time had Tracy, while in uniform, spoken against Navy policy—and that was when he was summoned by a Congressional Committee with 17 other service members and ordered by his commanding office to appear in full uniform!
Further, of course, Tracy had been highly honored by the Navy for his Top Gun service and was discharged honorably with no stain on his record.
So Mr. Morris made my day! You can send him a thank you by clicking here.
I thought it couldn't get any better. But then it did.
Later that day, my phone rang and it was Sen. Donald McEachin, tireless advocate for Tracy’s appointment as well as principled advocate for LGBT equality and righting many other injustices in society.
The news? The Circuit Court Judges of Richmond City had appointed Tracy to the District Court bench for the very seat the House of Delegates had failed to fill!
Of course, it is only an interim appointment. The law requires that the General Assembly must ratify or reject the judges’ appointment next session, which begins in January. So we have our work cut out for us. Tracy will deserve full appointment at that time.
The good news is that he will have six months of distringuished service on the bench to recommend him. And if we do our part, we can make sure there are enough Delegates who will assess his credentials fairly and honestly. I encourage you to write your Delegate today, and let them know you care that this nomination is handled with fairness. Urge them to read Del. Morris’ letter.
And then came the whipped cream and cherry atop all this good news—again some military justice.
The Pentagon announced, also on Thursday, that gay and lesbian servicemembers will be saluted during Gay Pride Month, in a continuation of other Pentagon events honoring African Americans and women, and other groups each year.
Will wonders never cease? Nine months after the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, right here in Virginia, the Department of Defense honors our gay and lesbian servicemembers.
Truly, last week we received some well-needed justice—and at the moment, all Bob Marshall and his buddies could do was grumble and grind their teeth and talk darkly about revenge against the judges. They kept talking about honor, but it was beginning to wear thin, as theirs was hard to find.
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