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Anti-drag & Pride protest in suburban Virginia just outside of D.C.

Fairfax Mayor Catherine Read, who attended, said that the city is paying for the event. Other sponsors included George Mason University



Anti-LGBTQ+ protestors gathered outside Old Town Hall in Fairfax City, Virginia, to protest the city’s pride celebration. (Photo Credit: Public Advocate of the United States /Instagram)

FAIRFAX CITY – Fairfax City Council declared June as LGBTQ Pride Month, with a celebration planned at Old Town Hall on Saturday, June 3, to include a drag queen performance. Outside of the event in front of the building roughly two dozen people gathered in protest of the city’s Pride event.

According to the local conservative right publication the Washington Examiner, the protest was coordinated by Stacy Langton, a Fairfax County resident, who gained notoriety for leading a group of parents protesting two controversial LGBTQ-themed books available in high school libraries in September of 2021, that Langton falsely claimed promoted pedophilia. The Fairfax County School Board, and officials with Fairfax County Public Schools announced they had removed the books from the school libraries to reassess their suitability for high school students.

At the time The Washington Blade reported: “I’m not one of those activist moms or disgruntled moms,” Langton stated in an interview with Fox News. “This is not about being anti-gay, anti-trans or whatever. I would have been there and said every single word I said if this had been the depiction of a heterosexual couple with heterosexual acts – pornography is pornography and I don’t care what the gender is,” she told Fox News.

Langton also appeared in several ads for then candidate, now Republican Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, during the 2021 gubernatorial election.

Also appearing at the protest were members of the Southern Poverty Law Center listed hate group, Public Advocate of the United States, and its leader, Eugene Delgaudio.

The Examiner reported that Fairfax Mayor Catherine Read, who was attending the event, told the tabloid that the city is paying for the event. Other sponsors of the event include George Mason University and Fairfax Ace Hardware.

The announcement from the city published online stated:


Saturday, June 3rd
5PM – 10PM
Old Town Hall
3999 University Dr., Fairfax

The City of Fairfax and Mason are thrilled to host its inaugural “Fairfax Pride” event on June 3rd, 2023!

While Pride is celebrated 365 days of the year, it’s most recognized during the month of June. Pride Month evolved out of the 1969 Stonewall Riots and has since become a time to reflect and celebrate both the progress and the people of the LGBTQIA+ community.

This collaborative event will kick off In Old Town Hall with informational vendors from both Mason campus and the NOVA area, as well as children’s activities, such as face-painting, Fairy Hair, crafts and more! Later in the evening, a warm welcome will be given by representatives from both the City of Fairfax and Mason, to commemorate this exciting new event. The event will conclude with a dance party featuring several drag queen performances throughout the evening.

All are invited and welcome to attend! 



Northern Virginia drag event packs local pub & restaurant

Drag performer Tara Hoot, read children’s stories and handed out coloring books to the kids was joined by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington



Freddie’s hosted a ‘Love Fest’ Drag Story Hour on Saturday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

ARLINGTON, Va. – Between 200 and 250 people, including parents and their children, turned out on Saturday, May 4, for a “Love Fest” Drag Story Hour brunch hosted by the Arlington, Va., LGBTQ establishment Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant.

Local drag performer Tara Hoot, who read children’s stories and handed out coloring books to the kids attending the event, was joined by members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, which sang several songs before Hoot began reading from children’s books in keeping with the tradition of drag queens conducting Drag Story Hour events across the country.

The May 4 event at Freddie’s in the Crystal City section of Arlington took place four weeks after the start of a similar event hosted by Freddie’s was delayed by a bomb threat, forcing those who had arrived  to exit through a rear door and wait in a parking lot as Arlington police conducted a search of the premises with a bomb sniffing dog. No trace of a bomb was found.

All the customers, including parents and their kids, were invited back inside and the show took place as planned.

Tara Hoot entertains at ‘Love Fest’ on Saturday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

No similar threat occurred at the May 4 event. But three male protesters assembled on the sidewalk next to the parking lot behind the Freddie’s building, with one of them shouting from a bullhorn passages from his Bible that he said indicated the Drag Story Hour event was an “abomination.”

The three protesters were outnumbered by nearly a dozen counter protesters who were  members of the Rainbow Defense Coalition, an LGBTQ organization. They carried bright, rainbow-colored umbrellas while chanting messages of support for the Drag Story Hour event.

Freddie Lutz, Freddie’s Beach Bar owner, called the event a “smashing success” that brought an “outpouring of love from the community.” Lutz released a flier on social media promoting the Love Fest event shortly after the earlier event interrupted by the bomb threat as a showing of love “to stop the hate.”

“Join us for the next story time brunch dressed in your favorite rainbow/hippie outfit” and “carry your favorite homemade signs of support,” Lutz said in his promotional flier. He came to the event dressed in what he called his hippie protest outfit.

Lutz said while the protesters did not interrupt the event, he was concerned that their shouting was scaring some of the kids as they and their parents walked by the protesters to enter Freddie’s.

“I went out back and tried to talk to one of them and it was kind of like talking to a brick wall,” Lutz told the Washington Blade. “He was screaming at the parents that were crossing their kids on the crosswalk,” Lutz said. “And I said, you’re screaming at those kids, you’re scaring them.”

Lutz said the man told him he was yelling at the parents, not the kids. “And I said, no you’re not. The kids are hearing you. You’re scaring them.”

Added Lutz, “And to have such a fun-loving, happy show and then walk out on the sidewalk to that is very disheartening. It’s really sad. I told him my God is a forgiving and loving God.”

One of the protesters, who declined to disclose his name, said he and his two fellow protesters came to talk about the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

“We want them to know this is an abomination to the Lord,” he told the Blade. “We want them to know those children don’t have a voice and they’re being brainwashed in there. We’re here to call out their sin.”

A protester stands outside of Freddie’s Beach Bar in Arlington, Va. flanked by several LGBTQ rights supporters. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Stephanie Krenrich, who brought her two-year-old daughter to the event, said she strongly disputes the claims of the protesters.

“I brought my daughter here because I think that it was a beautiful and wonderful show, and it was great for her,” she said. “And I think it’s pretty offensive when people come to Arlington and tell parents what to do, especially for something so beautiful and so fun and so wholesome,” she told the Blade.

“So that’s why I brought her,” Krenrich said. “I think that it’s really important that we stand up for our values and people just being themselves, being happy and being them.”

Among those who attended the event were four elected officials from Arlington – Virginia State Sen. Barbara Favola, Virginia State Del. Adele McClure, Arlington County Board member Maureen Coffee, and Arlington and Falls Church State’s Attorney Parisa Dehgani-Tafti.

Also attending was Nick Benton, editor and publisher of the LGBTQ supportive Falls Church, Va., News Press; and Kellen McBeth, president of the LGBTQ group Equality Arlington.

“It was fantastic to see so many people come out to support Freddie’s, to support the LGBTQ+ community,” McBeth said. “It was a great event and we’re happy to be a part of it.”

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Virginia attorney general joins efforts to fight Title IX changes

In February, the Youngkin administration attempted to challenge the Virginia High School League’s policy on transgender athletes



Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin listens as Attorney General Jason Miyares addresses an audience at a legislative signing ceremony in the capitol April 5, 2024. (Photo Credit: Office of the Attorney General)

By Nathaniel Cline | RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares has joined a multi-state effort to stop new Title IX rules from going into effect. 

The list of new rules designed to protect victims of campus sexual assaults and the rights of LGBTQ+ students has come under attack by Republican attorneys general in several states.

Miyares called the changes a “dangerous overhaul” of Title IX, and said the new rules would negatively impact students, families and schools in the commonwealth. The ruling also comes after Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration overhauled the commonwealth’s transgender student policies.

“The Biden Administration’s unlawful rule would jeopardize half a century of landmark protections for women, forcing the administration’s social agenda onto the states by holding federal funding hostage,” Miyares said in a statement. “They are avoiding Congress and the constitutional process because they know it will not pass. We cannot roll back Title IX in the name of false equity.”

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares at the Virginia State Capitol on Jan. 10. (Nathaniel Cline/Virginia Mercury)

Attorney generals from Tennessee, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia have also signed onto the suit, which was filed in Tennessee. Separate lawsuits have been filed in other states, including Louisiana and Texas.

Title IX, which has undergone several transformations based on the political party in office, was created to address women’s rights and prohibits any federally funded school or education program from discriminating against any student based on sex since it was established in 1972. 

The Department of Education said some differences compared to the previous version developed under the Trump administration, include protections against all sex-based harassment and discrimination, prohibits schools from sharing personal information and supports students and families. 

Narissa Rahaman, executive director for Equality Virginia, said in a statement that the rule prevents opponents from weakening “crucial” civil rights protections including for LGBTQ+ students by ensuring that pregnant and parenting students have a right to equal education opportunities, protecting student survivors and guaranteeing the rights of LGBTQ+ students to come to school as themselves without fear of harassment or discrimination.

“Students across races, places, and genders prove every day that they can do great things, especially when there are strong Title IX protections in place, which is why the Biden Administration’s updates to the Title IX rules are essential to ensure every student can thrive at school,” said Rahaman.

The new rule is slated to take effect on Aug. 1 and will apply to complaints of alleged conduct that occurs on or after that date, according to the Department of Education. 


While the ruling protects students and employees from all sex-based harassment and discrimination, it will also impact LGBTQ+ students and employees, including providing complete protection from sex-based harassment and prohibiting schools from sharing personal information.

Schools must act “promptly and effectively” to protect and treat all students and staff who make complaints “equitably.” Schools must also provide support measures to complainants and respondents, and act to end any sex discrimination in their programs and prevent any recurrence.

The rule further clarifies the definition of “sex-based harassment,” which means to treat someone unfairly because of their gender; and the scope of sex discrimination, including schools’ obligations not to discriminate based on sex stereotypes, sex characteristics, pregnancy or related conditions, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

The federal agency said the changes will empower and support students and families by requiring schools to disclose their nondiscrimination policies and procedures to all students, employees, and other participants in their education programs so that students and families understand their rights.  

The final rule also protects against retaliation for students, employees, and others who exercise their Title IX rights, and supports the rights of parents and guardians to act on behalf of their elementary school and secondary school children. 

The rule also protects student privacy by prohibiting schools from disclosing personally identifiable information with limited exceptions, which is something the Youngkin administration has opposed. 

Advocates say one of the rights students should have is the power to decide who finds out about their transgender status, to protect them from being bullied or harassed.

Virginia policies

In 2021, the first model policies for transgender students were designed under former Gov. Ralph Northam to provide school officials guidance on the treatment of transgender and nonbinary students and to protect the privacy and rights of these students. 

However, some schools declined to adopt the model policies, and the state law that led to them lacked enforcement incentives or penalties.

The current policies adopted by the Youngkin administration were revised to require parental approval for any changes to students’ “names, nicknames, and/or pronouns,” direct schools to keep parents “informed about their children’s well-being” and require that student participation in activities and athletics and use of bathrooms be based on sex, “except to the extent that federal law otherwise requires.” 

Virginia schools have also not fully adopted the newly revised policies, and state law has not changed since the policies were overhauled in 2023.

The Virginia Department of Education faces two lawsuits over the policies adopted by the Youngkin administration.

“All Virginia students, including our transgender and non-binary students deserve to feel safe and welcomed at schools,” said Wyatt Rolla, a senior transgender rights attorney with the ACLU of Virginia. “Accessing restrooms, locker rooms and other facilities that are necessary when you are at school learning is a key part of our schools being inclusive of those transgender [and] non binary students that are part of our community.”

Athletics not included

The provisions under the new Title IX rule did not mention anything about requiring schools to allow transgender students to play on teams that align with their gender identity. Virginia has taken its own shot at banning transgender athletes from competing in sports through legislation.

In February, the Youngkin administration attempted to challenge the Virginia High School League’s policy on transgender athletes, the Daily Progress reported. 

The proposed policy would have matched with the administration’s current policies that students should be placed on teams based on their biological sex rather than their gender identity.

The Virginia High School League, which oversees interscholastic athletic competition for Virginia’s public high schools, allows for transgender athletes to participate on teams that match their gender identity, but under certain conditions.

Simultaneously, lawmakers in the Virginia General Assembly controlled by Democrats killed bills, including Senate Bill 68, during the previous session that would have essentially banned transgender students from competing in sports.

Sen. Tammy Brankley Mulchi, R-Mecklenburg, who carried Senate Bill 723, said students like her 6-year-old granddaughter should have a choice to play with their own gender during a Feb. 1 Senate Education subcommittee hearing.

Mulchi’s bill would have required schools and colleges to have separate sports for boys and girls based on their biological sex. Any dispute would require a note from a doctor.

“If she [my granddaughter] wants to play an all-girl sport, I want her to play against girls that were born girls and not play against someone that is much stronger than her or can hurt her and take away her chances of a scholarship,” Mulchi said.

However, Sen. Stella Pekarsky, D-Fairfax, argued during the February hearing that whether students are competing with their respective biological sex or not “children of all ages, sexes have different builds and strengths and no children are alike on the same team.”


Nathaniel Cline

Nathaniel is an award-winning journalist who’s been covering news across the country since 2007, including politics at The Loudoun Times-Mirror and The Northern Neck News in Virginia as well as sports for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio. He has also hosted podcasts, worked as a television analyst for Spectrum Sports, and appeared as a panelist for conferences and educational programs. A graduate of Bowie State University, Nathaniel grew up in Hawaii and the United Kingdom as a military brat.


The preceding article was previously published by the Virginia Mercury and is republished with permission.

Nonprofit. Nonpartisan. No paywalls. Fair and tough reporting on the policy and politics that affect all of us is more important than ever. The Mercury brings you coverage of the commonwealth’s biggest issues from a team of veteran Virginia journalists.

We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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Norfolk, Virginia transgender resource center vandalized

“This is a place you can come to get away from that, but to see that sprayed over the window. It’s kind of like you are walking into hell”



Southeastern Transgender Resource Center (Photo Credit: Google Earth screen capture)

NORFOLK, Va. – The Norfolk Virginia Police Department is investigating the vandalism of a transgender resource center’s building.

Tarena Williams, founder of the Southeastern Transgender Resource Center, told WAVY that someone spraypainted anti-trans graffiti on the windows of her organization’s offices on Sunday or Monday morning. Williams told the Hampton Roads television station that seeing the messages was like “walking into hell.”

“I opened up STRC, even the Lamina House,” she told WAVY. “I opened up that to get away from those types of words. This is a place you can come to get away from that, but to see that sprayed over the window. It’s kind of like you are walking into hell. … To be honest, I was like in shock.”

Authorities are investigating the vandalism.

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Bomb threat interrupts Drag Story Hour at Virginia gay bar

“We had a lot of neighborhood families with kids, babies & one grandmother in there, It was a great turnout, and we had to push them all out”



From left, Tara Hoot and Freddie Lutz at Freddie's Beach Bar in Arlington, Va. (Photo courtesy of Freddie Lutz)

ARLINGTON, Va. – A Drag Story Hour event hosted by the Arlington, Va. gay bar and restaurant Freddie’s Beach Bar was interrupted by a bomb threat sent by email on Saturday, April 6, requiring parents and their children attending the event to exit the bar into its rear outdoor seating area and parking lot until police and a bomb sniffing dog searched the premises and found no trace of a bomb.

Freddie Lutz, owner of Freddie’s Beach Bar, located in the Crystal City section of South Arlington, said the threatening email from an unidentified sender came during the first time he has hosted a Drag Story Hour event, which includes a drag performer reading children’s stories to children accompanied by their parents.

“We had a lot of neighborhood families with kids and babies and one grandmother in there,” Lutz told the Washington Blade. “It was a great turnout, and we had to push them all out to the back parking lot,” he said. “And they waited, which I thanked them for, until the coast was clear. And then they came back in.”

Lutz said that two protesters opposed to the drag event showed up outside Freddie’s on Saturday, at the time of the Drag Story Hour event. He said drag performer Tara Hoot, who conducted the Drag Story Hour at Freddie’s, told him before the event started that some of her previous Drag Story Hour events have been targeted with bomb threats and protesters.

“So, we were kind of prepared or I guess you could say psychologically prepared for it,” Lutz said. “And sure enough, we got an email threatening the bar and also me personally at my residence, which was a little unsettling,” he said, adding that nothing was found at his nearby South Arlington house.

In response to an inquiry from  the Blade, Arlington police released a brief statement about the incident.

‘At approximately 11:15 a.m. on April 6, police were dispatched to the report of a bomb threat emailed to a business,” the statement says. “Responding officers made contact with the occupants, conducted a sweep of the business and found no evidence of criminal activity located at the restaurant during the sweep,” it says. “The investigation into the threat is ongoing.”

Hoot, who has been conducting Drag Story Hour events in the D.C. area for more than a year, said as many as eight of her past events have been targeted by hostile protesters or bomb threats, although no bombs have ever been found at the locations where the events have taken place.  

Hoot said like protesters targeting her previous events, the two protesters at the Freddie’s event, a man and a woman, cited their religious believes as their reason for opposing the Drag Story Hour event.

“They were spewing religious hate,” Hoot told the Blade. “They were trying to shame parents for bringing their kids.”

Hoot said she includes in the performances songs of interest to children and reads from children’s books such as the Very Hungry Caterpillar, a book that talks about bravery and other positive themes. “And then I give them bubbles and rainbow ribbons and we all color together,” she said. “It’s just fun and love and joy.”

Started in San Francisco in 2015 by an organization called Drag Story Hour, the story hour events have taken place across the country in libraires, bookstores, and venues such as restaurants and bars.

“In spaces like this, kids are able to see people who defy rigid gender restrictions and imagine a world where everyone can be their authentic selves,” the organization says on its website. 

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Queer Fairfax County students, allies rally against anti-trans lawsuit

The lawsuit by America First Legal, alleges FCPS’s policies violated the rights of a female, “practicing Roman Catholic” student



LGBTQ students demonstrate at Luther Jackson Middle School in Falls Church, Va., in June 2023. A rally against a lawsuit that Stephen Miller's legal group filed took place at the same school on March 21, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

FALLS CHURCH, Va. – Queer students and allies gathered at Luther Jackson Middle School in Falls Church on Thursday to rally against what they perceive as an attack on transgender rights in Fairfax County Public Schools. 

The rally, organized in response to a lawsuit filed by a legal group associated with former Trump administration official Stephen Miller, brought together members of the LGBTQ community and supporters who vehemently opposed the legal challenge.

The lawsuit, brought forth by America First Legal, alleges FCPS’s policies violated the rights of a female, “practicing Roman Catholic” student, by purportedly “allowing transgender teenage boys access to female restrooms” and enforcing what the plaintiffs described as a “radical, government-sponsored gender indoctrination and approved-speech scheme.” 

Miller’s involvement in the lawsuit underscores the divisive nature of the legal challenge, with critics accusing the plaintiffs of targeting vulnerable students and attempting to roll back progress on LGBTQ rights. FCPS’ policies, particularly Regulation 2603, which affirms the rights of trans and nonbinary students, have been lauded by many in the LGBTQ community for providing a safe and inclusive environment for all students.

Reflecting on the importance of FCPS’s policies, Moth DiNizzo, a junior at McLean High School, emphasized how they had been life-saving for many students. 

“The fact that so many of my friends and teachers respect my pronouns and my name is life-saving to me,” DiNizzo stated. “It’s wonderful, and I want everyone to experience that same joy of being known and trusted.”

Laura Troung, a senior at Falls Church High School, echoed DiNizzo’s sentiments, expressing concern over the potential harm caused by the lawsuit. 

“LGBTQ students are already disproportionately facing the youth mental health crisis in addition to bullying and harassment at schools, and this is just adding salt into the wound,” Troung said.

The Pride Liberation Project, comprising more than 500 queer and allied students in Virginia, has been actively involved in advocating for LGBTQ rights at both local and state levels. Despite the legal challenges and opposition faced by the LGBTQ community, organizations like the Pride Liberation Project remain steadfast in their commitment to promoting inclusivity and equality in schools.


Amber Laenen is a senior at Thomas More Mechelen University in Belgium. She is majoring in journalism and international relations. Amber is interning with the Blade this semester as part of a continued partnership with the Washington Center.

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Virginia Gov. Youngkin signs bill that codifies marriage equality 

The bill passed with support from both parties, at a time when more than 70 percent of Virginians support marriage equality



Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin speaking to residents in Central Virginia, January 2023. (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

RICHMOND, Va. – Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Friday signed a bill that codifies marriage rights for same-sex couples in state law. House Bill 174, which state Del. Rozia Henson (D-Prince William County) introduced, is among the dozens of measures that Youngkin signed.

“Two years into his term, Gov. Youngkin has shown leadership and inclusivity, and has finally listened to his constituents with his signing of HB 174,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director Narissa Rahaman in a statement. “The bill passed through the General Assembly with support from both parties, at a time when more than 70 percent of Virginians support marriage equality.”

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 control both houses of the General Assembly.

A Virginia Senate committee in January delayed consideration of state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria)’s resolution that would repeal the marriage amendment.

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Virginia lawmakers give final approval to marriage equality bills

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



Virginia House of Delegates in session. (Photo Credit: Commonwealth of Virginia government)

RICHMOND, Va. – 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 2015.

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 House of Delegates passes bill to expand bullying definition

House Bill 536 passed in the Democrat-controlled chamber by a 53-43 vote margin. State Del. Joshua Cole who is bisexual, introduced the bill



Virginia flag flies over the state Capitol. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

RICHMOND, Va. – The Virginia House of Delegates on Friday approved a bill that would add sexual orientation, gender identity and expression to the state’s definition of bullying.

House Bill 536 passed in the Democrat-controlled chamber by a 53-43 vote margin. State Del. Joshua Cole (D-Fredericksburg), who is bisexual, introduced the measure.

“Above all else, our schools must be places where all students can feel safe, supported and free from bullying, and this new, important bill is a step in the right direction toward a more equitable and harassment-free future for all of Virginia’s students,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director Narissa Rahaman in a press release.

GLSEN Executive Director Melanie Willingham-Jaggers in the same press release cited their organization’s research that “has demonstrated that protecting LGBTQI+ children from violence and discrimination results in improved academic performance, a greater sense of belonging in the community and better mental health outcomes.” 

“We applaud the Virginia House of Delegates for passing legislation that includes LGBTQI+ students in the enumerated protections in school anti-bullying policies, while simultaneously rejecting extreme bills that infringe on the rights of transgender students,” said Willingham-Jaggers. “Thank you to the leaders in Virginia and across the country who are increasingly rejecting the politics of division and instead centering safer schools where children can learn and reach their full potential.”

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Pride flags stolen by members of elite U.S. Army ceremonial unit

Specialist Matthew Henshaw, 20, was charged with 3 counts of Unlawful Entry – Bias Motivated & 3 counts of Petit Larceny for the flag thefts



The 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. (Official U.S. Army Photo)

ARLINGTON, Va. – 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.

Booking photograph of Matthew Henshaw
via Arlington County, Virginia, Police Department.

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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Anti-trans bills die in Virginia General Assembly

Democrats last November regained control of the House of Delegates. They hold a slim majority in the Senate



Virginia's Capitol in Richmond. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia lawmakers have killed all of the anti-transgender bills that had been introduced during this year’s legislative session.

The Senate Education and Health Committee on Thursday in a 9-6 vote tabled Senate Bill 37, which Equality Virginia said would have forcibly outed transgender students. A Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee on Tuesday killed an identical measure, House Bill 670.

The Senate Education and Health Committee also on Thursday in a 9-6 vote killed Senate Bill 68, which would have banned trans students from school sports teams that correspond to their gender identity. 

The same committee on Thursday tabled an identical measure, Senate Bill 723. House subcommittees on Tuesday killed two bills — House Bill 1120 and House Bill 1229.

Lawmakers killed or tabled an anti-trans “Women’s Bill of Rights” that had been proposed in both General Assembly chambers. 

The Senate Education and Health Committee on Thursday by a 9-6 vote margin killed Senate Bill 671, which would have banned transition-related health care for minors in Virginia.

State Sen. Christopher Head (R-Botetourt County) on Thursday withdrew Senate Bill 153, which would have allowed a “medical practitioner, health care institution or health care payer not to participate in or pay for any medical procedure or service that violates such medical practitioner’s, health care institution’s or health care payer’s conscience.” A House subcommittee last month killed an identical bill.

Democrats last November regained control of the House. They hold a slim majority in the Senate.

“Equality Virginia is grateful to the pro-equality majorities in the Virginia House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate, which have prioritized the health and well-being of LGBTQ+ — and especially transgender and nonbinary – Virginians,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director Narissa Rahaman in a press release.

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