A Point of Pride on LGBTQ Rights
The pursuit of equal treatment and justice for members of the LGBTQ community has been long and difficult, and each year brings progress toward those ends. The origins of what is now LGBTQ Pride Month date back to 1970 and the first anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York. It was then that a "gay pride" march was held in the city, giving rise to a movement that evolved into the month-long celebration now held each June: Pride Month.
Holland & Knight not only supports Pride Month and encourages employees to mark it as they see fit, but has long provided outreach to the LGBTQ community and offered an ever-more inclusive work environment.
Ahead of the Curve
For more than 30 years, Holland & Knight has helped lead the way on issues of LGBTQ equality and inclusion, including becoming one of the first law firms in the U.S. to extend domestic partner benefits. This followed a decision in 1995 to amend the firm's antidiscrimination policy specially to include sexual orientation. One of the firm's first affinity group initiatives was formation of the GLBT Workgroup in 1998, and the employee health plan was updated in 2014 to provide transgender-inclusive coverage. In quick succession, the firm joined with Equality Florida in 2015 and Texas Competes in 2016. This commitment was further solidified in 2020, when Holland & Knight signed on to the Human Rights Campaign's Business Coalition for the Equality Act, which supports equal employment for LGBTQ Americans.
"The firm has a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion. The Equality Act supports Holland & Knight's vision of inclusivity, and we are proud to support it," said Partner Dianne R. Phillips, who co-chairs the firm's LGBTQ Affinity Group and was president, vice president and a board member for GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).
Other Holland & Knight efforts to address LGBTQ equality and community needs in recent years include:
- Support for the 2016 Pulse Nightclub Shooting Victims: Employees donated more than $75,000 to the Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation for the OneOrlando Fund, and a contribution by the firm pushed the total to more than $100,000. Additionally, the firm worked with the Orange County Bar to launch a legal counsel hotline to provide free legal service for probate and disability claims, and the firm's Orlando, Florida, office made a Facebook video encouraging people to participate in the Keep Dancing Orlando movement.
- Asylum for a Honduran Transgender Person: In 2017, a Holland & Knight pro bono team secured U.S. asylum for a 35-year-old Honduran who was facing discrimination in her native land as a transgender woman. The judge in the case commended the team's preparation and indicated that the firm's advocacy provided a solid blueprint for similar future cases.
- Assistance with a Key Sponsorship: In 2018, a multi-office pro bono team helped The Trevor Project – the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ young people – secure a $1 million sponsorship and technology licensing deal with AT&T. The agreement was announced at the start of Pride Month.
- HNBA HERO Award: Also in 2018, Holland & Knight Partner Daniel Mateo received the Hispanic National Bar Association's (HNBA) inaugural HERO award for his contributions to HNBA's LGBT division, including serving as its first chair.
- Sponsorship of Mexico City Gay Pride Event: Working with Mexico City officials and Mexico's secretary of tourism, the firm sponsored a special event, Noche con Orgullo (Pride Night), in conjunction with Mexico City's Gay Pride 2019 celebration.
- Boston Corporate Ally Award: Holland & Knight was a recipient of the 2020 LGBT Corporate Ally Award from the Boston Business Journal, which recognizes Massachusetts companies that have demonstrated commitment and innovation in promoting greater awareness of and solidarity with the LGBT community. The publication noted how the firm's Boston office had supported such efforts for more than 15 years, including serving as a longtime sponsor of the annual Spirit of Justice Award dinner hosted by GLAD, New England's leading LGBTQ civil rights organization.
- Lavender Law Sponsor: For the last several years, including 2022, Holland & Knight sponsored the annual Lavender Law Conference & Career Fair hosted by the LGBTQ+ Bar. The event, which is the largest of its type, is billed as a "family reunion" that allows LGBTQ+ and ally legal professionals to look back on their shared history and forward to the future of the legal profession.
Continuing Our Commitment
Inclusivity at the firm took another step forward in 2019 when a policy permitting employees to include pronouns in their email signature blocks was approved. Soon after, the policy was extended to attorney bios.
This year, Holland & Knight has continued to receive recognition as a leader in LGBTQ advocacy and support. The firm earned a perfect rating of 100 percent on the 2022 Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index (CEI), the nation's foremost benchmarking survey and report measuring corporate policies and practices related to LGBTQ+ workplace equality. This was the eighth consecutive year Holland & Knight received a perfect score.
Holland & Knight marked Pride Month 2022 firmwide by offering a wealth of information, resources and opportunities both internally and externally, including "Pride Profiles" on the firm's social media channels showcasing members of the firm's Pride Planning Committee, a special Pride email signature created for use by employees, and a presentation for employees and clients titled "Beyond the Pride Flag: Breaking Barriers as an Openly Gay Executive," which featured an engaging conversation with Habitat for Humanity International Vice President of Individual Giving Jeremy Kraut-Ordover.
Finally, Holland & Knight's LGBTQ Affinity Group sponsored a Pride Month fundraiser for the Equality Florida Institute and Equality Texas Foundation. In all, more than $11,000 was collected for these two organizations working to secure full equality for LGBTQ+ individuals in Florida and Texas, two strongholds of the firm.
For more information on Holland & Knight's ongoing efforts to secure equal treatment and justice for members of the LGBTQ community, please contact LGBTQ Affinity Group Co-Chairs Michael Manthei and Dianne Phillips.