Staff

Francesca Acocella, Legal Intern

Francesca is a 3L at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City, where she served as the president of OUTlaw and the Minority Law Students Alliance and the vice president of Law Students for Reproductive Justice. During law school, Francesca interned at the National LGBTQ Task Force, the Cardozo Civil Rights Clinic, and Lambda Legal. She was an undergraduate intern at the ACLU Women’s Rights Project and at the National Women’s Law Center. Francesca graduated from Wellesley College in 2013.

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Kristin Gardner, Director of Development

Kristin has a diverse background in non-profit management and a passion for social justice. Most recently, as the Regional Manager of Annual Giving for the Arthritis Foundation, she successfully created and launched an annual campaign which raised over $1.1 million in its first year.

She received her BA and MA in Communication Studies from Texas Tech University. Her graduate studies focused gender communication and included research entitled “Women articulating their feminist standpoints” because she believes that allowing women the space to tell their stories gives them agency in a world that often does not privilege their voices.  During this time she also spent many years as a public speaking instructor.

Kristin volunteers with the National Organization for Women - New York State (NOW-NYS) as the Legislative Vice President. She also serves on the Political Action Committee for NOW-NYC. In the rest of her free time she enjoys yoga, cooking, a good nap, and playing on her long-standing kickball team.

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Patricia Harrington, Intake Coordinator

Patricia is a native New Yorker. After graduating from Queens College with a B.A. in Physics and Mathematics, she had a twenty year career as a programmer and medical physicist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. She entered Pace Law School in 2006. During the summer of her first year she interned with the Westchester County Law Department assisting child abuse and neglect attorneys in Family Court. At Pace, she was active in the Public Interest Scholarship Organization, Lambda Law Students, and the Women’s Association of Law Students. Prior to entering law school, Patricia spent a year as a volunteer tutor at the Hetrick-Martin Institute. She is committed to eliminating the discriminatory obstacles facing transgender people in daily life.  In her spare time she works on her personal animation projects.

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Rita Renner, Bookkeeper

Rita is TLDEF’s bookkeeper.  She also works as a bookkeeper for other non-profit organizations and teaches QuickBooks.  Prior to joining TLDEF, she was in charge of accounts payable and payroll for the town of Darien, CT and then used her masters degree in music education to teach.  She taught band and orchestra for over ten years before playing the trombone for national Broadway tours and on cruise ships.  Rita settled in New York City in 2000 and has been performing as both an instrumentalist and actor.  She is a past president of Crossdressers International and is an avid supporter of TLDEF.

Ethan Rice, Staff Attorney

Ethan is a graduate of Florida State University College of Law.  He was a child welfare attorney in Florida for four years before relocating to New York City.  In law school, Ethan worked on behalf of children in the adult prison system, children in the foster care system, and children with disabilities. As a graduate fellow at FSU College of Law, Ethan researched and co-authored, Juvenile Life without Parole for Non-Homicide Offenses: Florida Compared to the Nation.  The article was cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in Graham v. Florida in its decision finding sentences of life without parole for juveniles unconstitutional when imposed for non-homicide crimes.  He co-authored an amicus brief for Florida State University’s Children’s Advocacy Clinic in support of overturning Florida’s statutory ban on LGB individuals and couples adopting children in the case In re: Matter of Adoption of X.X.G and N.R.G.  Ethan also has a B.A. in International Relations.  Ethan spends much of his free time reading vegan and vegetarian cookbooks, obsessing over restaurant menus, and trying new recipes. 

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Michael D. Silverman, Executive Director

(hi-res photo)

Michael has been TLDEF's Executive Director since it was founded.  He has worked as an attorney in the LGBT civil rights movement since 1994.  In addition to his work at TLDEF, Michael is Adjunct Professor of Law at Fordham University School of Law, where he teaches courses on gender, sexuality and the law.

As a cooperating attorney with Lambda Legal, Michael worked on a number of groundbreaking cases, including Baehr v. Miike, one of the earliest challenges to restrictions on the freedom to marry, and Boy Scouts of America v. Dale.  In that case, Michael represented a coalition of religious organizations opposed to the Scouts’ exclusionary policy, and his brief  (cover, tables, brief) submitted to the United States Supreme Court on their behalf was cited in the opinion of the dissenting justices.  While on a Georgetown University Law Center Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellowship, Michael taught in the law school’s domestic violence clinic and worked in the legal department at NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Immediately prior to joining TLDEF, Michael worked for four years in New York Lawyers for the Public Interest’s Access to Health Care Program and Disability Law Center.  In that capacity, he provided technical assistance to numerous community groups seeking to end discrimination in access to health care on the basis of race and ethnicity.  He also successfully prosecuted large scale litigation in conjunction with the United States Department of Justice against hospitals for violations of, among other things, the Americans With Disabilities Act.  He is thrilled to be back in the movement for transgender equality.

Michael is a graduate of Vassar College and The University of Michigan Law School.

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