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Obituary: Vann Chen, 52

Friends describe him as “icon” of DC gay nightlife; talented tailor and designer



Vann Chen, a longtime D.C. resident and self-employed tailor and clothing designer, died March 31 at his Dupont Circle area apartment. He was 52.

Danny Aviance, his close friend and roommate for 17 years, said Chen died in his sleep. He said the city’s Medical Examiner’s office was still in the process of determining the cause of death.

Aviance said Chen was the youngest of nine children born and raised in Vietnam to Chinese parents. He said Chen arrived with family members in the U.S. in 1979 or 1980 on the West Coast. Aviance said Chen initially moved to the D.C. area to help his sister operate a family-run restaurant in Falls Church, Va.

During the years that Chen shared an apartment with him on 16th Street, N.W., near Dupont Circle, Aviance said Chen established a following as an acclaimed clothes maker who enjoyed making a living sewing.

“He had a style like nobody else,” Aviance said. “He did everything from wedding dresses to throw pillows. He literally threaded his way into people’s lives.”

Aviance and Chen’s friend Eileen Rappoport said Chen also was well known in the 1990s and early 2000s as a popular figure at D.C. gay nightclubs, including Tracks and later Velvet Nation before the two clubs closed to make way for real estate development.

Rappoport called Chen an “icon” in the D.C. area to those who were regulars at some of those clubs, especially Tracks.

“When Vann arrived, it was a party,” she said. “His talent in bringing life and light to anywhere he went is legendary.”

Rappoport added, “He was also a talented designer and seamstress. Many a bride walked down the aisle in a Vann Chen original. And like his work with fabric, Vann weaved himself into my life and the life of many creating a family that celebrated the best of life and grieved when the worst occurred. He was there to support each and every one of us and made us better people along the way.”

Aviance said he remembers Chen as “the funniest, kindest, sweetest person” he ever knew.

Chen’s friend David Delatour said Chen excelled in interior design as well as clothing design and the term “tailor” by itself wouldn’t do him justice.

“Vann was a high-end artist. His canvas was the human body and the home, and his paint was fabric and the needle,” said Delatour. “I have never seen anyone do what he did with his craft.”

Delatour and Mark Lee, a nightlife advocate and former owner of the gay nightclub Lizard Lounge and other venues, said Chen was also a generous supporter of community fundraisers at the clubs, especially those for AIDS- and LGBT-related causes.

A memorial service is planned for Saturday, April 28 at 9 p.m. with midnight toast on Chen’s birthday, at Townhouse Tavern Upstairs (next to Cobalt), 17th and R streets, N.W. In accordance with his wishes, Chen was cremated, with his ashes to be sent to Vietnam, where they will be buried at the site of his parents’ interment, Aviance said.

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Comings & Goings

Cummings joins White House Office of National Cyber Director



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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Abortion rights in post-Roe Maryland, Delaware

Practice generally legal, with some restrictions



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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Youngkin backs abortion ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy

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



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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