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Comings & Goings

Wilson named managing partner at Manatt, Phelps and Phillips

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Jonathan Barrio, gay news, Washington Blade

The ‘Comings & Goings’ column chronicles important life changes of Blade readers.

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at [email protected].

Donna Wilson, gay news, Washington Blade

Donna Wilson (Photo by Donna Wilson)

Congratulations to Donna Wilson, CEO and managing partner-elect at Manatt, Phelps, and Phillips, LLP, an AmLaw 125 firm with offices from coast to coast. Upon being named Wilson said, “Being elected as Manatt’s next CEO and managing partner, and following in the footsteps of Bill Quicksilver, is an honor I hold in the highest regard. Manatt is a special place, inclusive and collaborative, innovative and entrepreneurial with a focus on providing quality services and becoming essential to our clients. There’s something unique here. You can call it Manatt-itude, which is this sense of pride in who we are, where we came from and where we’re going. We’re proud of our colleagues, our clients, and our commitments. I am thrilled and privileged to be given the opportunity to lead such an impressive group of people, to continue building on our values and achieving our goals.”

Wilson is nationally recognized for her high-profile work on behalf of clients facing litigation and government enforcement actions, with a focus on both highly regulated industries and the privacy and data security space. Her extensive crisis and risk management experience, coupled with her broad subject matter knowledge and precedent-setting litigation experience, make her highly valued by in-house counsel, the C-level suite, and boards in preemptively mitigating risk, and navigating those risks that become full-blown exposure.

As the chair of Manatt’s privacy and data security business group and co-chair of its financial services practice, Wilson has been widely recognized for her leadership, most recently being selected again as one of the Top 100 Women Lawyers in California by the Daily Journal, and recognized as one of the Top 500 Leading Lawyers in America by Lawdragon 500. In addition, until her term as CEO and managing partner officially begins on July 1, 2019, she will continue to serve as a member of Manatt’s board of directors and the firm’s compensation committee. An active member of the LGBT Bar, Wilson is well known as an advocate for diversity and inclusion.

After law school, she clerked for the late Honorable David R. Thompson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Diego, as well as to the late Honorable Stanley S. Brotman of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

Wilson is admitted to practice in the state of California and the District of Columbia and to practice before the Supreme Court of California, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, U.S. District Court, Southern, Eastern, Central and Northern Districts of California.

She received her bachelor’s at the George Washington University and her J.D. from the University of Virginia, where she was also Order of the Coif Member, Managing Board, Virginia Law Review.

Congratulations also to Ben Finzel whose firm RENEWPR won its first public affairs award. They won a Cleanie Award on behalf of their client the Carbon Capture Coalition.

This marks the inaugural year for the The Cleanie Awards. The program is the first comprehensive awards program exclusive to the cleantech industry. They set out to recognize innovation excellence, business leadership and superior outreach campaigns.

The Cleanies aspire to identify the unsung movers and shakers in the industry, from the top of the Fortune 100 list to hot startups, pioneering individuals and high impact advocates. They believe this recognition program will generate visibility for innovators and disruptors who are creating life (and planet) changing solutions.

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Virginia

Va. students warn against ‘don’t say gay’ policies

New law requires parental notification of ‘sexually explicit content’ in classroom

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(Bigstock photo)

More than 600 students from across Virginia signed a letter from the Pride Liberation Project that calls for the Virginia Department of Education to clarify that teaching students about LGBTQ people and events is not “sexually explicit.”

Senate Bill 656, which Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed earlier this year, requires parents be notified when instructional materials contain “sexually explicit content” — without any input from students.

Current Virginia law defines “sexual conduct” as “masturbation, homosexuality, sexual intercourse, or physical contact in an act of apparent sexual stimulation or gratification.”

Because SB 656 does not itself specify what constitutes “sexually explicit content,” LGBTQ students and activists are concerned that the bill will rest on Virginia’s pre-existing definition of sexual conduct.

In their full letter, signees argued that “In effect, SB 656 can potentially be interpreted to define all references to people in same-sex relationships as inherently sexual.”

“Consequently, all references to LGBTQIA+ people in K-12 schools, including Supreme Court cases, historical events impacting LGBTQIA+ people, and discussions about queer authors, may be deemed as sexually explicit content under SB 656, effectively erasing LGBTQIA+ representation in our school curriculum,” reads the Pride Liberation Project’s press release.

Representation has been shown to positively increase academic performance, and LGBTQ youth already face exacerbated risks of suicide and mental health crisis. In Virginia specifically, the vast majority of LGBTQ students reported hearing anti-LGBTQ remarks at school, and 26 percent of LGBTQ students reported being “disciplined for public displays of affection (PDA) that did not result in similar action for non-LGBTQ students.” 

 “Most of my LGBTQIA+ friends are already struggling with their mental health,” said one Loudoun County student in the Pride Liberation Project press release. “I’m scared about the message these guidelines could send and losing the already limited affirming representation in my class.” 

Another student from Richmond said that they “didn’t want to see their friends who are from homes that aren’t accepting not see themselves reflected at school.” 

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District of Columbia

SMYAL announces new executive director

Erin Whelan to start Sept. 1

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Erin Whelan (Photo courtesy of SMYAL)

SMYAL on Thursday announced Erin Whelan will become the organization’s new executive director on Sept. 1.

SMYAL’s mission is to support and empower LGBTQ youth ages 6-24.

A press release that announces Whelan’s appointment notes the organization over the last five years has grown “exponentially.” Its services include affirming programs, housing support, leadership training and mental health services, designed to help LGBTQ youth develop advocacy skills and an educated, welcoming community.   

Whelan most recently served as the director of housing and homeless services at LifeWorks, an Austin, Texas,-based nonprofit that provides youth with housing and services. She has worked in nonprofit management for almost 20 years, and SMYAL’s press release highlighted her commitment to antiracism, equity and the LGBTQ community. 

“Erin Whelan is a compassionate and strong leader who I am confident is the right person to lead SMYAL,” board chair Rob Cogorno said. “I could not be more proud of the tremendous growth in services for our LGBTQ youth and of the SMYAL staff’s hard work that made that growth possible. Erin’s extensive experience in service to youth in need and her passion for that work will help guide SMYAL in continuing its excellent work in this challenging time for LGBTQ youth in our region and across the country.” 

Whelan in the press release shared her enthusiasm for stepping into leadership with this driving purpose. 

“I am beyond excited and honored to join SMYAL as the new executive director. My work has been committed to understanding and seeing the world through the lens of the most marginalized youth and young adults and being a fierce advocate for LGBTQ youth,” Whelan said. “I believe all LGBTQ youth deserve an opportunity to build a life they love and a chance to feel celebrated and affirmed for exactly who they are and strive to be. From the moment I stepped into the SMYAL community, it felt like exactly where I wanted to be. SMYAL creates a community for queer and trans youth where they can feel radically accepted and safe to step into their true selves.” 

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National

Judge: West Virginia Medicaid must cover transgender care

Fain v. Crouch is litigation challenging blanket exclusions of coverage for gender-confirming care in West Virginia’s state health plans

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A U.S. District Court judge ruled Tuesday that West Virginia’s Medicaid program could no longer discriminate by excluding coverage for gender-confirming surgical care for transgender West Virginia Medicaid participants. 

U.S. District Court Judge Robert C. Chambers also certified the lawsuit as a class action, covering all transgender West Virginians who participate in Medicaid.  In the lawsuit brought in November of 2020 by Lambda Legal, Nichols Kaster, and The Employment Law Center, the plantiffs challenged the state’s ban on gender-confirming care in West Virginia’s Medicaid and state employee health plans.

“We applaud Judge Chamber’s decision to remove the discriminatory barrier to accessing medically necessary, gender-confirming surgical care for all transgender West Virginia Medicaid participants. Protecting and advancing health care for transgender people is vital, sound, and just. Transgender West Virginia Medicaid participants deserve to have equal access to the same coverage for medically necessary healthcare that cisgender Medicaid participants receive as a matter of course,” said Avatara Smith-Carrington, Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal. 

Fain v. Crouch is a class action litigation challenging blanket exclusions of coverage for gender-confirming care in West Virginia’s state health plans. The blanket exclusions of coverage for care are stated expressly in the health plans offered to Medicaid participants and to state employees. West Virginia’s state health plans serve approximately 564,000 Medicaid participants and15,000 state employees.

“I am excited to finally have access to the healthcare I deserve. The exclusion negatively affects my health and wellbeing as well as the health and wellbeing of other transgender Medicaid participants in our community. Gender-confirming care is healthcare, and it is lifesaving,” said plaintiff Shauntae Anderson, West Virginia Medicaid participant.  

“This is a victory not only for me but for other transgender Medicaid participants across West Virginia. This decision is validating, confirming that after years of fighting to prove that gender-confirming care is medically necessary, we should have access to the same services that West Virginia Medicaid already provides to cisgender participants. Transgender West Virginians should never feel as if our lives are worth less than others,” said plaintiff Christopher Fain, West Virginia Medicaid participant. 

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