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Rufus Gifford gets nod to become State Dept. chief of protocol

Gay Biden supporter was ambassador in the Obama years

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Rufus Gifford, who was one of seven openly gay ambassadors during the Obama administration before becoming an early supporter of President Biden in the 2020 campaign, has officially obtained the nod for the position as State Department chief of protocol.

A White House announcement on presidential nominations on Friday lists Gifford as one of three new picks for upcoming roles in the Biden administration. Each of the nominations is subject to Senate confirmation, including Gifford’s.

Gifford’s nomination was expected. The media outlet Axios reported in January Gifford would obtain the nomination as chief of protocol for the State Department. The official is responsible for being on the front-lines of engagement in U.S. foreign policy, which means being the gateway between foreign leaders and the president.

For example, Gifford would likely be a point person between Biden and Vladimir Putin for their upcoming summit next month in Switzerland, making an openly gay man the face of the United States for a country in talks with a leader who has rolled back LGBTQ rights and looked the other way from violence against LGBTQ people in Chechnya.

No stranger to foreign policy, Gifford served during the Obama administration as U.S. ambassador to Denmark, a role he obtained after his work as a fundraiser for the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee in the 2008 and 2012 elections.

During the 2020 presidential primary, Gifford early on endorsed Biden for president and became a top adviser and deputy campaign manager for the campaign.

According to his White House, Gifford is actively engaged as a civil society leader and has promoted and sponsored a variety of organizations, including UTEC in Lowell, Massachusetts, the LGBT History Museum in New York, the Human Rights Campaign and the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, Mass. Gifford received a bachelor’s degree from Brown University in 1996. 

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Virginia

New campaign challenges Va. guidelines for transgender, nonbinary students

Students4Trans planning rallies, walkouts across the state

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Students and Pride Liberation Project supporters hold signs supporting transgender rights at Luther Jackson Middle School in Falls Church, Va., during a Fairfax County School Board meeting in 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A group of Virginia students have launched a campaign that challenges the state’s new guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students.

The Pride Liberation Project on Sept. 20 announced the formation of Students4Trans.

Students4Trans held a rally outside the Virginia Department of Education in Richmond on Sept. 22. Another rally will take place during the Virginia Beach School Board meeting on Tuesday.

The Virginia Department of Education in July announced the new guidelines for which Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin asked. The regulations, among other things, require parents to be informed of a student’s name and pronoun change, with the exception of “imminent risk of suicide related to parental abuse or neglect.” 

Arlington County Public Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools and Prince William County Schools are among the school districts that have refused to implement the guidelines. 

The Spotsylvania County School Board announced last month that students are required to use the bathroom that aligs with their assigned sex, and parents could choose the names and pronouns their children use at school. Two parents in Virginia Beach have filed a lawsuit that seeks to force the city’s school district to implement the new guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students.

Students4Trans has organized a student walkout on Friday to protest the Spotsylvania County School Board’s new policies.

Michael K. Lavers contributed to this story.

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Puerto Rico

Two men charged with attacking trans Puerto Rican woman plead guilty to federal hate crimes charges

Alexa Negrón Luciano attacked with paintball gun before her murder

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(Bigstock photo)

Two men on Monday pleaded guilty to federal hate crimes charges in connection with attacking a transgender woman in Puerto Rico in 2020.

A Justice Department press release notes Jordany Laboy Garcia, Christian Rivera Otero and Anthony Lobos Ruiz “were out driving together” in Toa Baja, a municipality that is about 15 miles west of San Juan, early on Feb. 24, 2020, “when they saw” Alexa Negrón Luciano “standing under a tent near the side of the road.”

“The defendants recognized A.N.L. from social media posts concerning an incident that had occurred the day prior at a McDonald’s in Toa Baja,” reads the press release. “During that incident, A.N.L. had used a stall in the McDonald’s women’s restroom.”

“Upon recognizing A.N.L., Lobos-Ruiz used his iPhone to record a video of himself yelling, ‘la loca, la loca,’ (‘the crazy woman, the crazy woman’) as well as other disparaging and threatening comments to A.N.L. from inside the car,” it notes. “The defendants then decided to get a paintball gun to shoot A.N.L. and record another iPhone video. Within 30 minutes, they retrieved a paintball gun and returned to the location where they had last seen A.N.L., who was still at that location. Lobos-Ruiz then used his iPhone to record Laboy-Garcia shooting at A.N.L. multiple times with the paintball gun. After the assault ended, Lobos Ruiz shared the iPhone video recordings with others.”

Negrón was later killed in Toa Baja.

Laboy and Rivera pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit a hate crime and obstruction of justice. El Nuevo Día, a Puerto Rican newspaper, notes a federal judge sentenced Lobos to two years and nine months in prison after he pleaded guilty to hate crimes charges last November.

Laboy and Rivera are scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 10.

They, along with Lobos, have not been charged with Negrón’s murder.

“To assault an innocent victim who posed no threat to the defendants for no other reason than her gender identity is reprehensible behavior that will not be tolerated,” said U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow for the District of Puerto Rico in the Justice Department’s press release. “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously defend the rights of all people, regardless of their gender identity, to be free from hate-fueled violence. Our community must stand together against acts of violence motivated by hate for any group of people — we remain steadfast in our commitment to prosecute civil rights violations and keep our communities safe and free from fear.”

Pedro Julio Serrano, spokesperson for Puerto Rico Para Todes, a Puerto Rican LGBTQ rights group, on Tuesday welcomed the guilty pleas. Serrano also urged authorities to bring those who killed Negrón to justice. 

“The time for total justice for Alexa is now,” said Serrano in a press release. “Her murder was a hate crime. Nobody doubts this. They falsely accused her, persecuted her, hunted her, insulted her with transphobic epithets, uploaded onto social media a video of them accosting her and they killed her. There are already three individuals who will serve time in federal prison for attacking her in a hate crime. That’s some justice, but not complete.” 

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Obituary

Longtime D.C. resident, humanitarian Eric Scharf dies at 65

Center Global volunteer passed away on Sept. 21

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Eric Greene Scharf of Washington, D.C., passed away on Sept 21, 2023, at age 65 after a long battle with cancer. Eric was the first born with his twin brother, Edward (Ted) at Norwalk Hospital in Norwalk, Conn., on April 22, 1958, to Patricia K. and John Stewart Scharf. He spent his early childhood in Syracuse, N.Y.; Essex Junction, Vt., and Barrington, R.I., until he was five when the family moved to Yarmouth, Maine. 

Eric graduated from Yarmouth High School in 1976 and the University of Southern Maine in 1980. As a youth he volunteered at the Yarmouth Merrill Memorial Library, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Falmouth, Maine, and on various Episcopal diocesan events and programs. While in high school and college he worked as a driver and assistant to the Right Rev. Frederick B. Wolf, sometime Bishop of Maine which took him on travels across Maine, the U.S. and even to Africa.

After graduating from college, Eric moved to Washington, D.C., where he spent 43 years as an association executive and mental health advocate. He was rarely satisfied with the world as he found it and was determined to make it right. He worked on addiction issues, help for LGBTQ refugees, depression and bipolar initiatives — for world peace even. We have more room for hope because of Eric’s work.  

His work with professional trade groups included the Passenger Vessel Association, National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America and the American College of Nurse Practitioners. In retirement he served as the D.C. voice for the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance and advocated for LGBT asylum issues. Eric was also involved in electing several mayors and other leaders in the District of Columbia from the mid 1980s on and worked on the staff of Anthony A. Williams.

Eric was a cradle Episcopalian who attended St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, Dupont Circle. He was a founding member of the national church’s Episcopal Caring Response to AIDS and in the Diocese of Washington, the Episcopal Caring Response to AIDS. Both organizations worked to educate the church at large about the epidemic and provide services locally to people suffering from the disease.

Eric is survived by his twin brother, Ted K. Scharf of Augusta, Maine, brothers Scott W. Scharf and his wife, Susan of Portland, Maine, and Steven C. Scharf of Portland, Maine. He is also survived by his father, John Stewart Scharf of Tilton, N.H. He was predeceased by his mother, Patricia K. Scharf.

In lieu of flowers, Eric asked that donations be made to: 

St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church: 1517 18th St., N.W. Washington, D.C., 20036

Capital Clubhouse, Inc.: 1517 18th St., N.W., 4th floor Washington, D.C., 20036

or

The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: 55 East Jackson Blvd., Suite 490, Chicago, Ill., 60604

A memorial service will be held at St Thomas’ Episcopal Church at 1517 18th St., N.W., Washington, D.C., on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023, at 2:30 p.m.  The service will be streamed live on the St Thomas’ Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/StThomasDC

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