Law experts are taking issue with a Virginia legislator’s comment that “sodomy is not a civil right” in explaining why he opposed a gay prosecutor’s bid to become a judge.
Virginia GOP delegate Bob Marshall spearheaded the effort to block Tracy Thorne-Begland, an openly gay prosecutor in Richmond, from becoming a judge, saying the attorney’s past activism and outspokenness on gay rights could bias his decisions on the bench.
The Virginia House of Delegates this week voted to reject Thorne-Begland’s bid to become a general district court judge in Richmond.
Speaking Thursday on CNN’s “Starting Point,” Marshall expounded on his reasoning.
“Dr. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks never took an oath of office that they broke. Sodomy is not a civil right,” he said.
Marshall argued that Thorne-Begland’s past advocacy of gay rights would interfere with his neutrality on the bench, particularly in cases involving homosexuals. “He can be a prosecutor if he wants to, but we don’t want advocates as judges,” Marshall said.
William Eskridge, a Yale Law School professor and author of “Dishonorable Passions,” a book about the history of sodomy laws in America, rejected the contention that sodomy isn’t a civil right. He pointed to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 2003 Lawrence vs. Texas decision, which struck down the criminal sodomy law in Texas – and by extension, other states – as unconstitutional.
“The Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence that anal or oral sex, commonly known as sodomy, when performed in private by consenting adults, is constitutionally protected – which makes it a civil right,” Eskridge said.