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LGBTQ Latinx advocate Fausto Fernandez dies at 80

Physician practiced in Northern Virginia for 30 years

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Fausto Fernandez, gay news, Washington Blade
Dr. Fausto Fernandez

Fausto Fernandez, a physician who practiced family medicine in the Northern Virginia area for more than 30 years and who became known as an advocate and champion for the LGBTQ Latino community, died July 18 at the Virginia Hospital in Arlington from complications associated with heart disease and non-COVID pneumonia, according to an official with the clinic Fernandez headed. He was 80 years old.

Hermon Balbuena, the administrator at the Falls Church, Va.-based Dr. Fernandez Family Clinic, said that for the past decade or longer Fernandez served a mostly low-income, uninsured patient population, many of whom were immigrants.

“And through his work with different programs and different agencies he likely contributed to saving hundreds if not thousands of lives,” Balbuena said.

“We did a lot of preventive work through screenings and through partnerships with organizations like the American Cancer Society and the local Latin American Consulate and so on for 20 years,” he said “And he used to see patients for a very low fee or no fees at all resources permitting,” said Balbuena. “So he is actually a hero for me.”

Friends from the D.C. LGBTQ community said Fernandez, as an out gay physician, became a role model for many in the LGBTQ Latinx community. D.C. Latino GLBT History Project founder Jose Gutierrez said Fernandez in 1995 organized a Latinx LGBTQ support group called Platiquemos (Let’s Talk), which held meetings in the Dupont Circle area.

Gutierrez said that in his role as lead facilitator of the group from 1995 to 1999, Fernandez organized education and HIV prevention presentations, gay movie nights, and other support meetings.

“Fausto was a great friend and participated in all the D.C. [Pride] parades and community events,” Gutierrez said in an email sent to LGBTQ community activists.

Robert Spiegel, one of Fernandez’s closest friends, said he met Fernandez in 1988 at the then-D.C. Gay Community Center, which hosted a gay rap group.

He said Fernandez was born and raised in Havana, Cuba on April 10, 1940. According to Spiegel, Fernandez’s parents and their four children, including Fausto, immigrated to the United States in the late 1950s like thousands of other Cubans to escape the Fidel Castro led revolution. The family settled in Miami, Spiegel said, also like large numbers of other Cuban refugees, and soon became naturalized U.S. citizens.

Fernandez married a Cuban immigrant woman and had three children in the Miami area before the couple moved to Spain in 1975 with their children to each attend medical school, according to Spiegel. He said Fernandez received his medical degree with honors from the University Of Cadiz Faculty Of Medicine in 1981.

Fernandez completed his medical residency at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in 1983, Spiegel said, and from 1983 to 1986 Fernandez and his wife served as medical and scientific journal editors for the Plenum Publishing firm in New York City.

Fernandez and his wife divorced sometime between their residence in New York and Fernandez’s move to the Washington, D.C. area in 1986, when he began his family medicine practice, Spiegel said.

Spiegel and Fernandez’s longtime friend Gerry Mickle of Alexandria said Fernandez’s dedication to serving patients in financial need, some of whom may have been undocumented immigrants, resulted in Fernandez living modestly with an income below that of other doctors.

Balbuena said that during the last two years Fernandez suffered from spinal stenosis, which mostly immobilized him and prevented him from working physically at the Falls Church clinic. However, as a sign of his dedication, Balbuena said Fernandez up until earlier this year continued to service his patients remotely through telemedicine.

“His mind was very sharp until the last minute,” said Balbuena. “And he didn’t suffer at all because he passed very peacefully due to the pneumonia and heart complications,” said Balbuena, who added that Fernandez tested negative for COVID-19.

He said Fernandez, who said he did not wish to have a memorial service, was cremated, with his ashes sent to family members in Florida.

Balbuena said clinic officials have decided to retain the name Dr. Fernandez Family Clinic in Fernandez’s honor.

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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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