News

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force selects Maine Law student as Holley Law Fellow

Dec. 19, 2012

PORTLAND, Maine – Victoria Minerva Rodriguez-Roldan, a second-year student at the University of Maine School of Law, has been selected as a Holley Law Fellow by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

The fellowship is one of the most prestigious in the area of LGBT policy and law. For the summer 2013 positions, Rodriguez was one of only four fellows selected from a large pool of applicants across the country. She will work fulltime for the Task Force for 10 weeks in Washington, D.C.

“As a member of the LGBT community, a passion and driving force for me has been to make sure that those who are now discovering themselves, those who are now 15, have it better than we did, and that eventually the next generations are born in a world where worrying about having to come out does not even matter,” Rodriguez said. “For me, being selected as a Holley Law Fellow means the opportunity to help make that world a reality.”

Holley Law Fellows work in the Task Force’s Public Policy and Government Affairs Department, which focuses on local, state and federal policy. They are given a diverse range of assignments that reflect the work of policy advocacy on behalf of the LGBT community. Typical tasks include drafting local and state anti-discrimination legislation, advocating on transgender-related policy issues, and drafting testimony for Congressional hearings.

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Rodriguez was selected as a Truman Scholar in 2011, and she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a B.A. in psychology from the University of Puerto Rico. She was the first transgender person in the history of the University to take part in student government, serving as an Alternate Representative to the UPR system University Board.

At Maine Law, Rodriguez chairs the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Law Caucus, a student group that serves as an educational, political, and social hub for the law school’s LGBT community. In October, the group hosted a debate on Maine’s same-sex marriage referendum. At the polls in November, Maine, Maryland, and Washington became the first three states to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote.

Here is a Q&A with Victoria.

Maine Law: What does it mean to you to be selected for the Holley Law Fellowship?

Victoria Rodriguez: It means being able to work at a national level on the topic that truly means the most to me in the most heartfelt way: the cause of LGBT rights. As a member of the LGBT community, a passion and driving force for me has been to make sure that those who are now discovering themselves, those who are now 15, have it better than we did, and that eventually the next generations are born in a world where worrying about having to come out does not even matter. For me, being selected as a Holley Law Fellow means the opportunity to help make that world a reality.

ML: Will you be working in Washington, D.C.? Do you know what assignments you will be given during your time with the Task Force?

VR: I do not know which specific assignment I will be working on, as those vary with the changing events and situation in the political landscape, but the work done by the Holley Law Fellows is one of policy law - the fellows work with the staff attorneys of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in its headquarters in Washington, D.C., and will focus on various policy projects, which includes heading one from start to finish during the summer period. Two major focuses of the Task Force are transgender rights, as well as the intersection of LGBT issues with other aspects such as race, gender, ethnicity, etc. The fellows also attend government briefings and major events of the Task Force, and among topics dealt with right now is the current ramifications of the decision of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity is sex discrimination under federal law. This decision was rendered in April and has large and very positive consequences for the transgender community and the LGBT community as a whole.

ML: Tell us a little about your background. Where did you grow up, go to high school, and undergraduate?

VR: I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, born in San Juan and spent most of my formative years in the city of Caguas. I attended undergrad in the University of Puerto Rico, where I did my B.A. in Psychology. I graduated Magna Cum Laude, having become a Truman Scholar (class of 2011) and forming part of the Directive of the Campus's General Student Council. I moved to Maine in 2011 to attend Maine Law, where I have been living since. I currently chair the LGBT caucus at Maine Law, and my life's passion has been that of civil rights and LGBT rights. As an undergraduate I did academic research into LGBT rights and into the status of transgender youth in Puerto Rico. Having sat in student government at a time of massive scale student protests in the UPR campus, I also witnessed many instances of police brutality on protesters, which helped fuel my passion for civil rights even more. And well, perhaps being the expected thing in a way, I did take part this Fall semester in the inaugural class of the Refugee and Human Rights clinic as a student attorney.

ML: Do you have specific career aspirations at this point?

VR: My aspirations at the present time (while vague), are mostly of a career towards public service in LGBT rights - be it in advocacy or legal policy work, perhaps actual legal work and representation.

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Media contact: Trevor Maxwell, communications director at Maine Law
Office: 207-228-8037/ Cell: 207-286-4431/ email: trevor.maxwell@maine.edu

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