By C. Todd Norris
I attended my first Pride celebration in Minneapolis in 1992 just before starting law school at the University of Minnesota. Then, I thought of it more as an act of defiance than a celebration. I had just come out to my friends from college and my immediate family members in Ohio before moving to Minneapolis to start a new life with the intention that I would not hide my identity from anyone anymore. I marched in the Pride parade that year to be seen and to be counted. The event drew people from all over the Midwest. The City’s official crowd count was approximately 50,000 people, only a tenth the size of what it draws today, but still one of the largest in the nation at the time.
I rushed downstairs the next morning to see how it had been covered by the local paper. After flipping through page after page of large colorful photographs of the Swedish festival that had taken place that weekend (with only a small fraction of the number of people), I finally found it – a one-paragraph description next to a 2”x3” black & white photo captioned, “A drag queen hands out condoms at Pride.” I was furious. Yes, drag queens are absolutely an important part of our community and are in fact often credited with having ignited the LGBTQ+ movement itself, and yes, HIV awareness was even more important to our community in 1992 than perhaps it is today. But that small black & white photo at the very back of the cultural events section of the paper was the single representation the local paper chose to include? To say the least, the paper’s coverage of our enormously colorful and diverse community that had come together that weekend to show not just Minneapolis, but the entire nation that we exist, that we are your family members, your co-workers, your friends and your neighbors was woefully inadequate. I did not feel seen or counted. Continue reading “Something To Be Proud Of”
By Raylene Espitia
This blog post features a Duane Morris staff member in celebration of Pride Month.
Greetings! I come in peace and I am here to share a little bit about me. My name is Raylene (or Ray – your call), and I joined Duane Morris roughly 10 months ago as a Legal Assistant with the Employment, Labor, Benefits and Immigration group in the Chicago office. I came out as bisexual at the age of 21 and was fortunate to be surrounded by supportive friends and family. A few years later, I moved alone from California to Chicago. Every single person I met for the next couple years was brand new to me and of course, knew nothing about me either. During this time, the majority of the people I met had the tendency to assume that I am straight and/or treated me differently when I told them that I identify as bisexual. Having such a significant part of me ignored and misunderstood brought back feelings of isolation, frustration, and loneliness, to name a few. However, this encouraged me to practice self-acceptance more than ever before and to seek ways to help others like me. In January of this year, I found an LGBTQ+ organization to join and it’s been such a joy to be a part of. I am so happy to be around people again who understand me and can make me feel like I belong.
During my time serving the youth with the Center on Halsted, I have seen so many kids and young adults finally find a space where their identities are recognized and accepted. From the very beginning, I was surprised, humbled, and overwhelmed to see the impact that providing a safe space for people had on their wellbeing. I am sharing this because I think it’s important for people to realize that everyone has the power to make an impact on LGBTQ+ lives. Together we can make our community a better place. Continue reading “Better Together”
By Kristopher W. Peters
Grappling with your sexual orientation isn’t really fun, easy, convenient, or conducive to long-term happiness. At least for me it wasn’t. I’d characterize the whole experience as rather anxiety-inducing and stressful. I’m sure many of my LGBTQ counterparts would agree. I tackled coming to terms with being gay by eventually waking up one day and saying enough already, who cares? I was exhausted with grappling with that identity crisis and decided I had enough. But I was lucky; I confronted coming out of the closet from a position of privilege. Many members of our community don’t have that luxury.
After all, I’m a white man, from an economically stable and relatively progressive household. My mother, a native New Yorker, has long-been an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights. During the Windsor and Obergefell years, when I think LGBTQ rights really started gaining national attention and public support, she would always rant about it and ask, “what’s the big deal?” So while coming out was incredibly liberating and transformative to me personally, I also didn’t have to grapple with any sort of significant reckoning with key people in my life. A lot of LGBTQ folks, including some close friends, can’t say the same. Continue reading “Pride and Privilege”
By Rachael Cain
Hi everyone! I’m a lesbian and Texas expat, and I joined Duane Morris about three months ago. I’ve worked at a few different firms, and one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is being able to be myself at work. In my personal life, I’ve always been open about my sexuality, but I haven’t always been comfortable being out at work. Especially in Texas, I had to be careful about who I shared my personal life with, and I’ve had to deal with some people who don’t understand or accept LGBTQ people. For example, when I was married to my ex-wife in Texas, I didn’t tell my firm because I felt fairly certain that they would find some excuse to fire me if they knew I was a lesbian.
I came to New York specifically to find the elusive “queer community” and to live in a place that accepted me for who I am. And I have found that! I started two lesbian social groups (hit me up to join my Lesbian Walking Club!), enjoy frequenting a wealth of gay establishments, and have made a ton of queer social connections. However, I still wasn’t connecting my queer personal life in any way to my employment until I joined Duane Morris. When I came on board here, I was delighted to find a huge and active LGBTQ group already existed, and they routinely took on initiatives like pro bono representation, diversity retreats, and happy hours. They actively encourage people to think up new activities and support them in implementation. And not only did Duane Morris Pride immediately embrace me into the group, the firm’s straight counterparts celebrate and support their LGBTQ members. I finally feel like I can be myself at work, and I’ve been motivated to make more queer networking connections, seek out and perform pro bono work helping our community, and start a group specifically for queer lawyers. I’m also learning a lot and I’m excited about the future. Continue reading “Seeking Community”
By Michael R. Futterman
I don’t know if I am a good ally or if I am making a difference. And I know I still have a lot of work to do. But, I can tell you what I believe being a good ally is – it means being one in all aspects of your life, professionally and personally, all year long, not when it’s convenient and not only in June, during Pride month.
As a management side employment lawyer, it means making sure my clients are aware not only of their legal obligations concerning their LGBTQ+ employees, but also the benefits of having an open and welcoming organization where inclusivity and diversity are promoted. It means ensuring that LGBTQ+ issues are incorporated into employee training and development; that sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression are included in anti-discrimination policies; that clients large and small consider diversity and inclusion policies and initiatives, employee resource groups and support networks; and that my clients explore effective ways to recruit, retain and promote LGBTQ+ employees. It means ensuring that employer’s health benefits allow for same-sex and domestic partner coverage; that parental leave policies include equal benefits for parents of any gender; and that dress codes are gender-neutral. It means trying to create a workplace culture for LGBTQ+ employees where they feel safe, welcome and appreciated. Continue reading “What it means to be an LGBTQ+ ally?”
By Edward Cramp
Clients of the Duane Morris law firm deserve the very best legal representation. It does not matter what kind of client they are. We have clients of all shapes and sizes. Some are publicly traded companies with large internal legal departments. Others are family businesses that have served their communities for generations. And, some are pro bono clients who need our advice to do good in the world.
Regardless of who the client is, they deserve the best. Our lawyers and staff can only give their best if they feel supported and accepted at work for who they are and who they love. Only then will they bring their whole self to the profession. Continue reading “Bring Your Whole Self”
By Ryan Wesley Brown
Planning a wedding is stressful, especially in our semi-post-COVID world, where the specter of another surge of illness still looms over any large event. But a new anxiety now hangs over my own wedding planning: legal impossibility. The Supreme Court majority is methodically laying the groundwork to unravel decades of hard-won civil rights battles, stare decisis be damned.
Public opinion on LGBTQ rights has shifted during recent years. For example, a 2021 Gallup Poll shows that 70% of Americans believe that same-sex couples should be entitled to legally protected marriage rights. National brands, including retailers, banks, and tech companies, have embraced Pride month as part of the annual cycle of holidays and marketing campaigns. Slotting neatly between the tent pole summer holidays of Memorial Day and Independence Day, one might be tempted to believe that queer America has achieved some sort of immutable victory in the fight for equality. Continue reading “Tiny Protests: Living Pride Every Day”
By David E. Watson
That was my first reaction when Ed Cramp mentioned he wanted to start a firm wide LGBTQ affinity group.
There’s no overt discrimination at the firm. The fact that anyone might be LGBTQ seemed to be completely irrelevant here. So why bother? Plus, I wanted to be known as a lawyer, not a gay lawyer. Continue reading “Why?”
By Edward Cramp
Every gay person must come out. As difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family. You must tell your relatives. You must tell your friends if indeed they are your friends. You must tell the people you work with. You must tell the people in the stores you shop in. Once they realize that we are indeed their children, that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and all. And once you do, you will feel so much better.
Harvey Milk, 1978, available here.
Harvey Milk spoke these words in 1978, in a speech celebrating the defeat of Proposition 6 in California. Prop. 6 would have prohibited LGBT people from teaching in public schools. Ultimately, a wide coalition of leaders— from Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan— joined Harvey Milk in condemning the measure. It went down to overwhelming defeat. Today, it is a credit to Harvey Milk and countless others that it is unthinkable that such a proposal could make it to the ballot. Continue reading “Harvey Milk’s Ideas about the Power of Coming Out Still Hold True Today”