Duke Law celebrates LGBTQIA alumni for Pride Month
This June, Duke Law joined the LGBTQIA community nationwide in celebrating Pride month.
In a social media-focused series, the Law School spotlighted the excellence, achievements, and wisdom of Law School alumni who identify as LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual and/or Ally). Their reflections spoke to the rule of law’s potential to create, nurture, and champion spaces of equality and inclusion for all, in addition to its history of marginalizing and discriminating against the LGBTQIA community.
The roots of Pride month stem from the Stonewall Uprising in New York City that occurred on June 28, 1969. Many cite the violent confrontation between police and gay rights activists outside the Stonewall Inn as sparking the modern-day gay rights movement. Throughout the month of June, events are held across the U.S. to celebrate diversity, acceptance, visibility, liberation, and community.
Eric Dashner ’08
A magna cum laud graduate of Duke Law, Dashner (he/him) is currently Senior Counsel at Wells Fargo — and a proud husband and father.
“As a white gay man, I come to the legal profession with a lot of privilege and have a choice of when, and if, I reveal I’m gay. Acknowledging this privilege, I think it is so important for us lawyers — especially us Dukies — to bring our whole selves to work; and, more importantly, take action against injustice when we see it as there is still so much more work to do. As an in-house lawyer, I make it a point to reference my husband (and now kid) to normalize LGBT folks and encourage others to be their authentic selves,” Dashner said.
Leif Cervantes de Reinstein ’97
A partner at Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP, de Reinstein (he/him) takes on LGBTQ pro bono work and says educating others about the LGBTQIA community’s history and culture is important to him.
He said, "Despite being bullied and feeling alone as a gay kid, from early on in adulthood I have wholeheartedly celebrated my LGBTQ identity and always been ‘out’ as an attorney. So, I work at a law firm like Sheppard Mullin that truly promotes diversity and inclusion from the top down, appreciates my self-advocacy, and supports my LGBTQ pro bono commitments. Knowing and standing up for myself has translated well to championing my clients’ interests with vigor, authenticity and empathy. Also, the recent rise in anti-LGBTQ legislation and other national hate measures against my community have made me even more pro-active about educating others about my experiences, from planning a firm event this month about gay history and culture to working with the ABA to develop the 21-Day LGBTQ+ Equity Habit-Building Challenge syllabus.”
Satana Deberry ’94 MBA’06
District Attorney for the City of Durham in North Carolina, Deberry (she/her) is a well-known and respected advocate for criminal justice reform. She was featured in INDY Week's June article ‘For Pride Month, Satana Deberry Discusses Life As a Queer Woman, Justice For All, and Her Inspiration.’
“I come to the profession from a cultural position of traditionally being powerless—so justice is more than a concept to me. Justice is the continuous opportunity to create communities in which everyone is safe and free. As a member of the community, I recognize that being born black, brown, poor, LGBTQ (or all those things) means less access to justice. As a prosecutor, I can change that. The truth of the world is that if black women and femmes are safe, then everyone is safe,” Deberry said.
Maryellen Madden ’72
Counsel for Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads, Madden is also a longtime advocate and educator of LGTBQIA rights. She’s served on several boards, including the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund and Pennsylvania Commission on LGBT Affairs, and presented programs on transgender history at bar association forums, continuing legal education sessions, Duke Law School, and transgender conferences.
“Historically, the law has been at best incidental in improving the lives of transgender men and women. Like many others, my ability to claim my gender identity was driven more by cultural shifts than by legal precedent. My law colleagues, community, and friends, including many of my Duke classmates, have enabled my journey. But the situation is fluid, and rather than the law becoming a shelter from hatred and discrimination, there is a growing danger that the law will be weaponized to roll back the gains made. Thus, to me and others like me, justice is very much on our minds,” Madden said.
Rose McKinley JD/LLMLE ’17
Currently Senior Counsel in Corporate and Securities at Unity Technologies, McKinley is also a former president of the Duke Bar Association (DBA), attorney general of the Graduate and Professional Student Council, member of the OutLaw board, and a staff editor of Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy.
"Being a lesbian is not something I think about every day as it relates to my profession. But visibility matters, particularly as trans kids are villainized by people—many of them lawyers—in legislatures across our country. I'm an example of the high rate of return when institutions, like Duke Law, invest in LGBTQIA+ people. Our profession will miss out on a lot of talent until we fully invest in, rather than villainize, people across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum," McKinley said.
Rachel See ’00
Acting Executive Officer of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, See previously served as a Special Assistant to the Chair and as the EEOC’s Assistant General Counsel for Technology. Rachel is in her fifth year of service as the Board President of the National Center for Transgender Equality.
"Coming out as transgender gave me a keen appreciation for how important it is for our allies to stand up, speak up, and take action to support trans people. If we are to achieve equality for LGBTQ people, we need more than performative allyship in the form of marketing and social media campaigns during Pride Month. I hope that in the future, Duke Law School will demonstrate through its actions how it is taking affirmative action to support the transgender community, both at Duke and beyond," she said.