Meg York JD’15, professor and Family Law Project lead attorney and Jill Martin Diaz, professor and Vermont Immigrant Assistance (VIA) lead attorney, both part of the South Royalton Legal Clinic (SRLC) at Vermont Law and Graduate School, have been named as two of the 40 Best LGBTQ+ Lawyers Under 40 in 2023 by the National LGBTQ+ Bar Association.
Each year, 40 LGBTQ+ legal professionals under the age of 40 are recognized by the LGBTQ+ Bar for demonstrating a profound commitment to LGBTQ+ equality in their field. York and Martin Diaz are among a distinguished group of lawyers receiving this award; both identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community, extending their advocacy within this community and respective legal fields.
“All of us at Vermont Law and Graduate School congratulate Professors Meg York and Jill Martin Diaz on this extraordinary recognition,” Vermont Law and Graduate School President Rod Smolla said. “The work they have done to advance LGBTQ+ rights is central to the mission of Vermont Law and Graduate School and of utmost importance to the nation.”
Serving as the school’s lead attorney for the Family Law Project of the SRLC, York has argued and won several cases that have changed the legal landscape for all LGBTQ+ people in Vermont. Earlier this year, York won an appeal against the state’s vital records department, which granted her clients the use of a nonbinary gender marker on an initial birth certificate for their child.
York has spearheaded a new LGBTQ+ project at the SRLC, securing grant funding that enables clients to receive legal services at no charge, regardless of socioeconomic status. The project works to safeguard individuals that identify as LGBTQ+ and who are legally vulnerable or unable to afford counsel, assisting with cases that range from establishing parentage for queer families to transgender rights for adults and youth, name and gender marker changes, guardianship provisions and estate planning, and discrimination claims.
“LGBTQ+ individuals need dedicated and capable attorneys — my ability to use my education, skills, and expertise to advocate for queer community members has been a privilege,” York said. “I am thankful that VLGS has supported my goal to make the most lives livable, which is exactly what we have done in the legal clinic. I am honored to receive this award and recognition, and I am thankful to the school, the students, and the clients who have supported me and allowed me to do the work necessary to advance LGBTQ+ rights.”
Lead attorney of the Vermont Immigrant Assistance project at the SRLC, Martin Diaz extends their advocacy to the state’s immigrant communities, helping dozens of immigrants and their families achieve safety and security. Their work has proven instrumental for state-based immigrant rights, including supporting implementation of Vermont’s COVID equity stimulus and strengthening our state’s laws related to Special Immigrant Juveniles status.
Martin Diaz supports the LGBTQ+ community through their work with queer and trans* clients, and as a role model and mentor for queer and trans* students. They are recognized as an innovative leader for LGBTQ+ individuals in the legal field, co-founding the Vermont Bar Association’s Queer Legal Professionals affinity group and speaking publicly at legal conferences to present progressive ways of representation for gender-diverse clients.
“I am so lucky to be trans, and I am even luckier to do legal work with and for queer and trans* communities at VLGS,” Martin Diaz said. “Thank you for this honor and for the opportunity to honor and amplify the struggles and celebrations of queer and trans* students and immigrants in rural places like Vermont.”
About Vermont Law and Graduate School: Vermont Law and Graduate School, a private, independent institution, is home to the nation’s premier environmental law program. The school features innovative experiential programs and is home to the Environmental Law Center, South Royalton Legal Clinic, Environmental Advocacy Clinic, Energy Clinic, Food and Agriculture Clinic, Environmental Justice Clinic, and Center for Justice Reform. For more information, visit www.vermontlaw.edu and follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.