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Men charged with stealing Pride flags are members of elite U.S. Army unit

One of two soldiers listed as fugitive after failing to show up at court hearing

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Specialist Matthew Henshaw, 20, has been charged with multiple crimes related to the theft of Pride flags.

News surfaced this week that two men arrested by Arlington, Va., police on Feb. 2 for allegedly stealing LGBTQ Pride flags from the home of a lesbian couple on five separate days between September 2023 and January 2024 are members of the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Regiment also known as the Old Guard, an elite ceremonial unit that participates in burials at Arlington National Cemetery.

One of the two soldiers, Specialist Matthew Henshaw, 20, has been charged with three counts of Unlawful Entry – Bias Motivated and three counts of Petit Larceny for the flag thefts that Arlington police say occurred Sept. 16, Sept. 30, and Jan. 27. He was released on a secured bond, according to a police statement.

The other  soldier, Private First Class Joseph Digregorio, 23, was charged with one count of Petit Larceny for the flag theft that occurred on Jan. 21. Police said he was initially released on a summons, but court records show he failed to show up for a Feb. 7 arraignment hearing at Arlington General District Court and is listed as a fugitive.

Henshaw appeared in court for his arraignment on Feb. 8, where General District Court Judge Cari Michele Steele scheduled his trial date for March 21. 

The judge set the trial date after reading the six charges pending against Henshaw and asking him if he has retained an attorney or needs a court appointed attorney. Henshaw said he has retained an attorney.

He appeared in court dressed in a civilian business suit and tie accompanied by a uniformed male soldier. He declined a request from the Washington Blade for comment after leaving the courtroom following the arraignment.

Arlington police have said in a statement that the case of the Pride flag thefts remains under investigation and anyone with any information relevant to the case is urged to contact them through the police tip line at 703-228-4180.

Police have also pointed out in their statement that the two women, whose Pride flags were stolen repeatedly after they replaced them following each of the thefts, live in a home on the 200 block of South Courthouse Road, which is located less than two blocks from the south entrance of Fort Myer Army Base, where Henshaw and DiGregorio have been stationed. 

During a visit by the Blade to the 200 block of South Courthouse Road on Feb. 6,  at least eight houses on the block had Pride flags either hanging on the sides of the houses or displayed on flag poles.

A resident of one of the houses told D.C.’s NBC 4 News that neighbors of Michelle Logan, 30, and her partner, Jenna Burnett, 27, the couple whose flags were stolen, decided to display their own Pride flags as a showing of solidarity for the two women after learning of the arrests of the two soldiers for the theft of the couple’s flags.

Attempts by the Blade to reach Logan and Burnett for comment have been unsuccessful.

Henshaw did not respond to any of the charges against him during his Feb. 8 arraignment. Under Arlington’s court system, he was not required to enter a plea of innocence or guilt until the time of his trial on March 21, according to a court clerk.

Court records show that as of Feb. 8, neither Arlington police nor the Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney, which serves as prosecutor in criminal cases, have filed any court documents disclosing the evidence they obtained to support the charges against Henshaw and Digregorio.

Those familiar with the case have speculated that police most likely linked the two soldiers to the Pride flag thefts from video images of the thefts from a security camera that the two women have on their house. The women told the Washington Post and other news media outlets that they posted the video images on social media shortly after the thefts began last September.

“We recognize the significance and impact of their actions and take these charges seriously,” the Army said in a statement released to news media outlets. “The actions of those involved in no way represent the values and character of The Old Guard or our Army,” the statement says. “We will continue to work with the Arlington County Police Department throughout this ongoing investigation.”

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Virginia

Va. marriage equality affirmation bills receive final approval

Measures now go to Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s desk

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Virginia Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Virginia lawmakers this week approved two bills that would affirm marriage equality in the state.

The Virginia House of Delegates approved state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria)’s Senate Bill 101 by a 58-42 vote margin. The Virginia Senate passed state Del. Rozia Henson (D-Prince William County)’s House Bill 174 by a 22-17 vote margin.

Both bills now go to Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin. 

“Virginians across the political spectrum have taken heart to see these bills receive bipartisan support in the General Assembly,” said Ebbin, a gay Democrat, in a press release. “I hope Gov. Youngkin will sign this critical legislation to create state-level protections for all Virginians regardless of who they love.” 

Voters in 2006 approved an amendment to Virginia’s constitution that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Same-sex couples have been able to legally marry in the state since 2014.

The General Assembly in 2021 approved a resolution that seeks to repeal the marriage amendment. It must pass in two successive legislatures before it can go to the ballot.

“Senator Ebbin and I introduced this legislation to codify marriage equality in Virginia’s Code so that all marriages are protected under Virginia law beginning July 1, 2024,” said Henson, who is also gay. “Codifying marriage equality will assuage concerns from the LGBTQ+ community in Virginia following the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2022) reversal on abortion rights by the Supreme Court and Justice Thomas’ comments in his concurrence.”

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Virginia

Two lawsuits filed against Va. guidelines for transgender, nonbinary students

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin sought regulations

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(Bigstock photo)

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and a private law firm on Thursday filed two lawsuits against the state’s guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students.

One of the plaintiffs, a high school student in York County to whom the press release refers as “Jane Doe,” claims “at least one teacher refused to address by her correct first name.” The second plaintiff, “Lily Loe,” a middle school student in Hanover County, “is not allowed to participate in a girls’ sports team.”

“When you look at the ways that VDOE’s (Virginia Department of Education) model policies are hurting transgender and nonbinary students like our clients, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that their authors were purposefully trying to erase gender non-conforming students from the classroom,” said Andrew Ewalt, co-counsel and partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, which has an office in D.C. “That flouts both existing nondiscrimination law and the Virginia law that directed VDOE to develop model policies in the first place.”

The Virginia Department of Education last July announced the new guidelines for which Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin asked. 

Equality Virginia and other advocacy groups claim the guidelines, among other things, would forcibly out trans and nonbinary students. Arlington County Public Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools and Prince William County Schools are among the school districts that have refused to implement them. 

“It was clear since the day that he took office that Gov. Youngkin and his Department of Education would target LGBTQ+ Virginians and single out transgender and nonbinary students for discrimination, and now that some school boards are implementing and enforcing their model policies for public schools, it’s even more clear that the harm is real,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director Narissa Rahaman on Thursday in a statement. 

“We applaud the ACLU of Virginia for taking on these harmful policies and for fighting for the health and well-being of students,” added Rahaman. “We’re proud to work toward those goals, together.” 

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Virginia

Va. Senate committee approves marriage equality affirmation bill

State Del. Rozia Henson introduced House Bill 174

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Virginia Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Virginia Senate’s Courts of Justice Committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would affirm marriage equality in the state.

State Del. Rozia Henson (D-Prince William County) introduced House Bill 174. The Democratic-controlled Virginia House of Delegates last month approved the measure in a bipartisan vote.

“Virginia is for all lovers — and we’re going to keep it that way,” said the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia in a Valentine’s Day post on its X account.

Voters in 2006 approved an amendment to Virginia’s constitution that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Same-sex couples have been able to legally marry in the state since 2014.

The General Assembly in 2021 approved a resolution that seeks to repeal the marriage amendment. It must pass in two successive legislatures before it can go to the ballot.

Democrats last November regained control of the House of Delegates. The party currently holds a 21-19 majority in the Senate.

The Senate Privileges and Elections Committee last month delayed consideration of state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria)’s resolution that seeks to repeal the amendment. 

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