This past year, the American Bar Association's (“ABA”) Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (“SOGI”) was pleased to learn that two of its Commissioners, Mr. Victor Marquez and Ms. Evlia Rosales-Arriola, were nominated for, and accepted, roles as Mentors in the 2016-17 Ms. JD Fellowship Program. Mr. Marquez, an immediate past SOGI Commissioner, is Principal of the Marquez Law Group based in San Francisco, CA. Ms. Rosales-Arriola, a current SOGI Commissioner in her third year of service, is a Professor Emerita of Law at Northern Illinois University.
Ms. Marina Gatto, Ms. JD Fellowship mentee (left) and Mr. Victor Marquez, Ms. JD Fellowship mentor (right) at the ABA Commission on Women's 2016 Margaret Brent Awards Luncheon at ABA 2016 Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA
By way of background, Ms. JD is a “non-profit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to the success of women in law school and the legal profession.” Each year, Ms. JD offers countless opportunities for women to learn about and gain experience in the legal profession, provides exposure to educational, networking, and leadership opportunities, and hosts a multitude of programs, including its Fellowship Program. Ms. JD explains its Fellowship Program, as follows, In conjunction with the ABA's Commission on Women in the Profession's [Margaret] Brent Award, Ms. JD selects up to 20 second year law students as Fellowship Winners. In addition to receiving financial support and invitation to ABA and Ms. JD events, Ms. JD matches the law students with mentors from among the Commission's alumnae of commissioners and Margaret Brent Award Winners. The one-year program is designed to foster a commitment to excellence in a new generation of women attorneys, inspired by the generation of trailblazers who paved the way for their success.
During the MS. JD Fellowship Program selection process, Ms. JD reported that they had a record level of mentee-applicants who expressed interest in LGBT law and issues. It was a natural fit, then, for SOGI Commission leaders like Mr. Marquez and Ms. Rosales-Arriola, who have unique and dynamic backgrounds in LGBT advocacy and rights, social justice, and leadership and education, to be nominated and selected as mentors for the Ms. JD Fellowship Program.
For example, in addition to Mr. Marquez’s role as an immediate past SOGI Commissioner and 2016 recipient of the ABA’s Spirit of Excellence Award, Mr. Marquez is also a former president of the Hispanic National Bar Association (2007-2008), and the first openly gay person to lead the organization. Mr. Marquez was paired with Ms. JD mentee, Ms. Marina Gatto. Of her experience in the Ms. JD Fellowship Program, Ms. Gatto explained her excitement of being paired for Mr. Marquez,
It is an honor to be paired with such a passionate and visionary mentor who has worked tirelessly to diversify the legal profession, and to make it more inclusive for future lawyers like myself. Victor inspires me to continue to pursue my goals and personifies what it means to be both an incredible lawyer and a dedicated activist, and I hope to follow in his footsteps in my future career.
Similarly, in addition to her role as Professor Emerita of Law at Northern Illinois University, Mr. Rosales-Arriola is also the Executive Director of Women On the Border, Inc., based in Austin, TX. Women On the Border is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing awareness of the impact of NAFTA on women in the global factories at the U.S.-Mexico border known as "maquiladoras." Ms. Rosales-Arriola was paired with Ms. JD mentee, Ms. Katherine MacRae. Of her mentor-mentee relationship with Ms. MacRae says,
Elvia has been a phenomenal mentor. Not only does her work for minority communities inspire me to take a more active role in my community, but her words of encouragement to "follow my heart" could not ring more true today. Elvia's kindness and commitment to helping me find my path, which will in turn help those who are vulnerable, speak volumes about her mentorship and leadership. I count myself lucky to have a mentor who understands the challenges and opportunities facing a member of the LGBTQ community and am honored to be her mentee.
Ms. Katherine MacRae, Ms. JD Fellowship mentee (left), and Ms. Elvia Rosales-Arriola, Ms. JD Fellowship mentor (right), at the ABA Commission on Women’s 2016 Margaret Brent Awards Luncheon at ABA 2016 Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA, Aug. 7, 2016.
SOGI applauds the dedication of Mr. Marquez and Ms. Rosales-Arriola to not only the LGBT community, but also to the self-less devotion of their time and resources to the development of the profession’s next generation of lawyers. In fact, SOGI is very proud of all of the fantastic work its Commissioners are doing as mentors and leaders in educating the profession and public about the barriers that LGBT persons face within the legal profession and the justice system. SOGI would like to also thank Ms. JD for the opportunity and platform for our SOGI Commissioners to engage and support the next generation of leaders. For more information about SOGI and the work it is doing in the law and society, please check out our web-site here.