Tracy Thorne-Begland has been appointed to the Richmond Circuit Court after Virginia lawmakers rejected his nomination, some say because he's openly gay.

Judges can fill vacancies on the bench, but such appointments must be approved by lawmakers when they reconvene.

Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell, a Republican, praised the move which is expected to revive the controversy surrounding Thorne-Begland's nomination.

“The Governor believes Mr. Thorne-Begland is well-qualified to serve on the bench,” Tucker Martin, McDonnell's spokesman, said in an e-mail to The Washington Post. “He congratulates him on the appointment.”

McDonnell, however, has previously voiced his opposition to openly gay judges. In 2003, McDonnell led a successful effort to oust a lesbian Circuit Court judge. At the time, then-Delegate McDonnell suggested that gay people are criminals because they were violating the state's anti-sodomy statute.

The appointment infuriated Delegate Robert G. Marshall, a Republican who led the charge against Thorne-Begland's nomination.

“I think it's highly imprudent and arrogant on their part,” he told the paper. “I hope Virginia understands what's going on here: They're contesting the authority of the General Assembly. … This is an act of defiance on their part. When appointed officials get in fights with elected officials, they invariably lose.”

Appearing on cabler CNN, Marshall insisted that “sodomy is not a civil right” in the course of explaining his opposition to the gay judicial nominee.

Thorne-Begland came out publicly as a gay Naval officer 20 years ago and was discharged under the military's now-defunct policy barring open gay service.

His nomination comes on the same day Republican Delegate Richard L. Morris announced he had dropped his opposition to Thorne-Begland.

Only 33 delegates in May supported Thorne-Begland's nomination. He needs 51 votes in the House to keep his appointment.