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Bin Laden’s death triggers celebrations

Thousands wave flags, cheer outside White House

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Locals celebrate bin Laden death at White House (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Local gays joined in the celebration before the White House late Sunday after news broke that the U.S. military had killed long-pursued terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and taken his body into custody.

On Sunday, President Obama announced that after a firefight in Abbottabad, Pakistan, U.S. forces had killed bin Laden, founder of the international terrorist group al-Qaeda, which was responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and other terrorist attacks on the United States and allies.

“For over two decades, bin Laden has been al Qaeda’s leader and symbol, and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies,” Obama said. “The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda.”

Even before Obama’s announcement concluded, an estimated 2,500 people started gathering before the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue — many waiving American flags and draping them over the shoulders as others chanted “U-S-A! U-S-A!” — to commemorate the U.S. victory in the war on terrorism.

Greg Taylor, 25 and a gay D.C. resident, said he came to the White House because was “super excited” to learn bin Laden was killed after U.S. officials had been searching for him for more than 10 years.

“We wanted to celebrate with our fellow Americans and show our patriotism,” Taylor said. “We were really pumped. We were kind of getting tired and ready to go to bed, but then we got so excited, and now we’re awake and we just want to sing the National Anthem.”

David Grant, 23 and a gay D.C. resident, said the death of bin Laden at the hands of U.S. forces inspired a sense of unity that has been lacking for some time.

“We can finally unite around something after having been opposed to each other these few years,” Grant said. “I wanted to celebrate with our president. It feels great because I feel we’ve been united for the first time in a very long time.”

Smoke filled the night air as some people who attended the celebration waived sparklers. One person who took part held up a sign reading, “Osama bin Later: Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue.”

Other participants climbed into the trees before the White House and in Lafayette Park where they shouted cheers and waived flags. A shirtless male participant climbed onto a streetlight before the White House and performed a set of chin-ups as the crowd cheered.

Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, said he wanted to join the celebration to express the sense of great joy that he felt now that a major chapter in the war on terrorism had concluded.

“I think there’s a lot of symbolic significance in this for a lot of people, and so there’s a lot of relief and jubilation that I personally felt and I think a lot of people were sharing,” Nicholson said.

Upon arrival at the gathering, Nicholson distributed an armful of the American flags that Servicemembers United had deposited in November 2007 along the National Mall to honor the then-12,000 service members who had been discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“We just started passing them out to complete strangers out there who were celebrating and grabbing anything with American flag colors or stars and stripes that they could find,” Nicholson said. “We literally saw tons of them on TV being waived in front of the White House.”

Nicholson said he doesn’t think the feelings of gay service members following the death of bin Laden differ much from those of straight service members because both had been working for the terrorist leader’s demise.

“Everybody’s shedding their identifying characteristics — like being gay — and just showing solidarity with some common American identity,” Nicholson said.

Political observers are already predicting that bin Laden’s death will bolster the Obama’s chances for re-election in 2012 — and perhaps cement his chances for electoral victory.

Lane Hudson, a gay D.C. Democratic activist, said Obama’s victory will likely enable him to win re-election as well as pursue other items on his agenda.

“Attaining the elusive goal of killing bin Laden changes the game and empowers the president in an entirely new way,” Hudson said. “He is almost assured of re-election and now we will find out how he will use his newfound political capital.”

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Comings & Goings

Cummings joins White House Office of National Cyber Director

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John Cummings

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected]

Congratulations to John Cummings on joining the Office of the National Cyber Director at the White House as Director of Supply Chain and Technology Security. Upon getting the position, he said, “I am beyond thrilled to join the growing team at the National Cyber Director’s Office and bring my experience to our mission of mitigating the cyber threats facing our nation and ensuring every American can enjoy the full benefits of the digital ecosystem. It is truly a privilege to work with this incredibly brilliant and collegial group of cyber experts.” 

Prior to joining the White House, Cummings served as Associate General Counsel at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). Before that role, he served as interim Chief Counsel for ODNI’s National Counterintelligence and Security Center and as Associate General Counsel for the Office of the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community.

He has provided legal advice and counsel on matters of government-wide and interagency policy and national security in the areas of executive authority, cyber, constitutional law, civil rights and civil liberties, legislative affairs, and international cooperation. He has worked on recruiting LGBTQ, women, and minority applicants for government roles in national security and is experienced in public relations, stakeholder relationships, and international partnerships. 

Cummings began his career clerking for the Honorable Ivan L.R. Lemelle, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, and also clerked for the House Committee on Homeland Security and the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Law and National Security.

He attended Villanova University where he received a bachelor’s degree in English. He earned his J.D. from Loyola Law, New Orleans, and his LL.M. in National Security Law from Georgetown Law.

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Maryland

Abortion rights in post-Roe Maryland, Delaware

Practice generally legal, with some restrictions

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (Public domain photo)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday overturned Roe v. Wade, which in 1973 found that the decision to receive an abortion was generally protected by the Constitution of the United States. With the broadest federal protection of abortion access now rescinded, the legality of abortion will by and large be determined on the state level.

In Delaware, abortion is legal through the Medical Practice Act — but with some restrictions.

After fetal viability, or the point where a fetus can survive outside the uterus, abortion in the First State becomes illegal unless necessary for the patient’s “life or health,” or if the fetus has a condition “for which there is not a reasonable likelihood” that it will survive outside the uterus, according to Subchapter IX of the act

Additionally, under the state’s Parental Notice of Abortion Act, physicians cannot perform a surgical abortion on minors under the age of 16 unless the patient’s parent or guardian has received at least 24 hours notice from a medical professional. Notice is not required for nonsurgical abortions.

On the federal level, the funding of abortion is illegal through the 1977 Hyde Amendement “except in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest,” according to the Guttmacher Institute, a sexual and reproductive rights advocacy organization. States are only federally required to fund abortions that meet these conditions through federal-state Medicaid programs. 

While some states also fund abortions deemed medically necessary regardless of whether they endanger a patient’s life, Delaware state law does not extend beyond federal guidelines: The state only funds abortions in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest.

Abortion legislation in Delaware mirrors neighboring Maryland, whose laws include similar restrictions on abortion after fetal viability and abortion for minors under the age of 16. But abortion laws in these states are generally more restrictive than other mid-Atlantic counterparts, such as New Jersey and New York.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) weighed in on the state’s abortion law on Friday.

“In 1992, Maryland voters approved a constitutional referendum legalizing and protecting access to abortion as a matter of state law – that measure remains in effect today following the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson. I swore an oath to uphold the Constitution and the laws of Maryland, and that is what I have always done and will continue to do as governor.”

The impact of Roe v. Wade’s fall in Delaware remains uncertain. While the abortion rate in Delaware steadily declined between 2014 and 2017, recent findings show that instances of abortion are increasing once again in the state, reflecting a rise on the national level.

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Virginia

Youngkin backs abortion ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy

Republican governor supports exceptions for incest, rape and protecting mother’s life

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Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin in response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade said he will seek to ban abortions in his state after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

“Virginians do want fewer abortions as opposed to more abortions,” Youngkin told the Washington Post. “I am not someone who is going to jump in and try to push us apart … There is a place we can come together.”

Youngkin, a Republican, took office in January.

His party controls the Virginia House of Delegates, but Democrats maintain a 21-19 majority in the state Senate.

“Today, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Dobbs, giving power back to the states to make decisions on abortion,” said Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears in a statement. “The court has recognized that the 1973 decision was an example of judicial and federal overreach. The important question of abortion has now been returned to statehouses across the country, in order for them to make their own policy decisions, which is exactly what the founding fathers envision when they wrote the 10th amendment to the Constitution.” 

“I applaud the court for recognizing this wrong and having the courage to correct it. I look forward to working with the governor and the General Assembly in the next legislative session on legislation that respects life,” she added.

Abortion is currently legal in Virginia during the first and second trimesters.

Youngkin on Friday said he supports abortion exemptions in cases of rape, incest or if the mother’s life is at risk.

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