As Rachel explained on the show last night, Tracy Thorne-Begland was set to become a Virginia judge before state Republican lawmakers rejected him. Thorne-Begland is a state prosecutor, a father, and a former Top Gun fighter pilot, and his nomination enjoyed bipartisan sponsorship, but the GOP rejected him anyway.
By all appearances, this was as plain an example of bigotry towards a judicial nominee as we've seen in a while: Thorne-Begland is gay, so Republicans blocked him from becoming a state judge.
But Virginia Republicans can explain this. The GOP didn't reject Thorne-Begland because he's gay, they argue; the GOP rejected Thorne-Begland because he believes in gay rights.
"He holds himself out as being married," said Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William), who is running for U.S. Senate. Noting that gay marriage is not legal in Virginia, he said that Thorne-Begland's "life is a contradiction to the requirement of submission to the constitution." [...]
Marshall, the Family Foundation of Virginia and others who raised concerns about Thorne-Begland's nomination said they did not object to him because he is gay, but because of his outspokenness on the subject of gay rights.
Ah, I see. Because Thorne-Begland has stated opinions about civil rights issues, he's necessarily unqualified to be a judge.
Or as Adam Serwer put it, "[I]t's not, strictly speaking, correct to say Thorne-Begland was rejected because he was gay. He was rejected because he believes being gay entitles him to the same rights as people who aren't."
If Thorne-Begland had been gay and remained silent on whether other gays should be treated as first-class citizens in the Commonwealth, he'd presumably be fitted for his judicial robes today.
Update: Andrew Rosenthal had a good piece exploring this in more detail:
Imagine if we applied this logic to all cases: If you’re a woman publicly in favor of equal pay, you can’t be trusted to rule on sex-discrimination cases. If you’re black and publicly opposed to racial profiling, you can’t be trusted to hear cases about police misconduct.
As Dahlia Lithwick wrote in her essay on the Virginia vote, by this logic, Justice Thurgood Marshall, who fought for civil rights at the NAACP, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was “a passionate career-long advocate for women’s rights” would be unfit to serve on the federal bench. Obviously the only people who can rise above their race, or gender or sexual orientation and rule fairly are straight white men.