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Marine biologist Kristian Fauchald dies at 79

Local LGBT advocate spent 35 years at Smithsonian

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Kristian Fauchald, Leonard Hirsch, gay news, Washington Blade
Kristian Fauchald, Leonard Hirsch, gay news, Washington Blade

Kristian Fauchald (left) died at age 79 in April. He’s pictured here with his husband, Leonard Hirsch. (Photo courtesy Hirsch)

Kristian Fauchald, a marine biologist internationally recognized for his research on behalf of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History and a longtime supporter of LGBT rights, died April 4 at George Washington University Hospital. He was 79.

His husband, Leonard Hirsch, said the cause of death was complications associated with the sudden onset of a bronchial and heart-related condition.

Fauchald most recently served as Research Zoologist Emeritus at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, where he continued his life’s work of studying a family of ocean living worms known as Polychaetous Annelids.

During his tenure of more than 35 years at the Smithsonian, Fauchald traveled to oceans throughout the world collecting samples of the marine organisms he and his collaborators studied. His scientific papers and two books considered groundbreaking in his field have been credited with advancing the world’s knowledge of ocean ecosystems.

“He impacted people around the world and in this country, of course – students, scientists and LGBT folks,” Hirsch said. “He was a truly outstanding human being.”

Fauchald was born in Norway in 1935. He received Norway’s equivalent of bachelor and master’s degrees at the University of Bergen before moving to California in 1965, where he entered and completed a doctorate degree program at the University of Southern California at Los Angeles.

In 1969, he became assistant professor of biology at USC and a short time later he was appointed curator of marine annelids at the California-based Allan Hancock Foundation, according to a write-up on Fauchald’s career and life prepared by Hirsch and several of Fauchald’s friends.

The write-up by Fauchald’s friends says Fauchald moved to D.C. in 1979 to begin what became a 35-year association with the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Natural History. His first position there in 1979 was with the museum’s Department of Invertebrate Zoology.

“He also involved himself in the gay community in the District, initiating rap sessions at the Gay Community Center on Church Street,” the write-up says. “He was active in the early days of the D.C. Adventuring Group [a gay outdoors organization].”

Hirsch said he and Fauchald met in 1983 and became domestic partners in 2001. They bought and began renovating a house on Q Street, N.W. in 1984, the write-up says, “that became known as ‘gay central” for LGBT organizations and causes as well as a gathering place for the couple’s extended circle of friends they considered to be family.

Fauchald and Hirsch married in California in 2008.

Hirsch said that during his years at the Smithsonian, Fauchald played an important role in helping Hirsch carry out Hirsch’s duties as president of Federal GLOBE, an organization that represents LGBT federal employees.

“Beyond his own scientific research, Kristian was a mentor for many, and the Q Street home became a haven to a long list of biologists,” the write-up says. “His deep knowledge of worms and the breadth of philosophy constantly urged inquiry,” it says.

“He was always willing to listen, and the esteem with which he is held in the scientific community can be seen in the over 30 species named for him!” says the write-up by his friends.

In a recently published obituary for Fauchald in the scientific publication World Register of Marine Species, for which Fauchald was a founding editor, the publication printed the names of all of the species bearing his name, including the most recent one in 2013 called Chirimia fauchaldi Light.

In addition to Hirsch, Fauchald is survived by his brothers Jens and Per Fauchald of Norway along with their wives and his numerous nieces and nephews.

Smithsonian officials and Fauchald’s longtime associates and friends were expected to pay special tribute to him on July 1 when they celebrate International Polychaete Day, which falls on Fauchald’s 80th birthday. Polchaetes are a class of marine worms that Fauchald devoted much of his life to studying.

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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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