Member Spotlight: Connie Montoya Educates and Inspires

During Pride Month, Montoya, a partner at Hinshaw and Culbertson LLP, reflects on how far society has come regarding diversity and inclusion and work that has yet to be done on embracing the LGBTQIA+ community and learning about the issues it faces.

06/29/2022 8:45 A.M.

6.5 minute read

ACA International’s membership and the accounts receivable management (ARM) industry are increasingly diverse. In June, ACA is highlighting member voices as part of Pride Month.

Pride Month is recognized in June each year to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan, according to the Library of Congress: “The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally.”

It expanded in 1994 when a coalition of education-based organizations in the U.S. designated October as LGBT History Month. In 1995, a resolution passed by the General Assembly of the National Education Association included LGBT History Month within a list of commemorative months. National Coming Out Day (Oct. 11), as well as the first “March on Washington” in 1979, are commemorated in the LGBTQ community during LGBT History Month.

Since Connie Montoya, a partner at Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, started with the firm’s consumer financial services group in 2005, her focus continues to be on defense of financial services organizations while counseling clients on employment, diversity and workplace inclusion issues and serving on Hinshaw’s Diversity Committee.

Montoya grew up in the Philippines until age 14 when her family moved to New York, where she lives today. She is a board member of the National Association of Women Lawyers, and Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.  She is also a former board member of the LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York and a former co-chair of the LGBT Network of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association. She is also a former President of the Filipino American Lawyers Association of New York and Advisory Board Member of the National Filipino American Lawyers Association, among other groups.

Here, Montoya shares about the meaning of Pride Month, issues for the LGBTQIA+ community and her passion for training financial services clients on building an inclusive workplace.

Q. How did you get started in the ARM industry? 

A. I joined Hinshaw’s New York office in 2005. At the time, consumer defense cases were beginning to grow rapidly. Given my deep experience in federal litigation, these cases were steered my way. I have been defending individual and class-action cases involving the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act since then.

Q. What does Pride Month mean to you?

A. Celebration of self, of relationships, of community. I also tend to reflect during this time on the long arc of the fight for equality and justice by the LGBTQIA+ community every Pride Month—from the time of ACT UP in the 1980s to the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act by Windsor and Obergefell, and the continuing struggle of the transgender community. The prospect of retracting the hard-fought right to live equally under the law, especially in light of the recent Dobbs decision in the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, also underscores its fragility. I believe that Pride Month serves as an inspiration and encouragement for those who are still struggling with their LGBTQIA+ identities, a reminder of how far we have come but how far we have to go, and a reminder for those who love and support us—as well as society at large—that we are here, we have long been here, and we are not going away. After the Supreme Court’s decision last week, Pride Month took on a heightened meaning of what we are celebrating. It made people more vigilant about their celebrations. 

Q. What does it mean to embrace LGBTQIA+ pride?   

A. To no longer shy away from expressing and asserting one’s LGBTQIA+ identity; to live with dignity by speaking out or addressing both macroaggressions and microaggressions; to remain informed about the issues facing the LGBTQIA+ community; to support advocacy and legal efforts addressing those issues; and to educate and inspire others by living your authentic self in all areas of your life.

Q. What is an issue the LGBTQIA+ community is facing that many people might not know about? 

A. The recent Supreme Court decision should not be seen solely as a reproductive rights issue. Its long-term effects on LGTQIA+ rights is yet to be seen because it is already alluded to in the decision that any decisions resting on Roe are now put into question, and that includes same-sex marriage, for instance. Currently, however, one of the most pressing issues faced by the LGBTQIA+ community is the onslaught of anti-trans legislation on the state level. Texas, for instance, passed a law authorizing the investigations of parents who are supporting their transgender children with medically necessary health care. This type of legislation is brutal on every level: to the transgender children, their parents and to the medical community, and only serves to stoke fear and prejudice and justify violence and hatred against transgender people. Civil rights organizations, such as Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as PFLAG, have filed suit to challenge this law. More recently, Florida is considering legislation that would deny Medicaid coverage for medically necessary gender-affirming care for individuals.

Q. How are you planning to celebrate Pride this year? 

A. By attending and supporting NFALAGanza, which is a fundraiser for scholarships for Asian American LGBTQIA+ in law schools, sponsored by the National Filipino American Lawyers Association.

Q. Does your company host any events, or how it is celebrated/recognized with employees?

A. Yes, I am very fortunate that Hinshaw openly and actively supports its LGBTQIA+ attorneys in a multitude of ways, including hosting and sponsoring events for Pride. For this year’s Pride Month, Hinshaw is presenting an Employment Law Roundup centered on LGBTQ+ employment issues in our Los Angeles office, and the Chicago office is sending out a team to run the Annual Proud to Run event in Chicago. Just a little over a month ago, the New York office hosted a presentation on recent anti-LGBTQ+ legislation with presentations by representatives of the Human Rights Campaign. Hinshaw has a robust LGBTQ+ Affinity Group and also supports its members in their various leadership positions with LGBTQIA+ organizations. I am currently a board member of Lambda Legal and a former board member of The LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York. In both capacities, I have received nothing but support from Hinshaw in carrying out my duties.

Q. How can companies create inclusive environments for LGBTQIA+ employees? 

A. Belonging is a key component when it comes to inclusion. When you have employees who feel they belong, you ultimately end up with a happier and more productive workforce. Companies can create inclusive environments by creating and supporting LGBTQIA+ affinity or resource groups with active and intentional programming to entrench existing allies as well as create opportunities for new groups. As an example, Hinshaw encourages its attorneys and staff to include their preferred pronouns in their email signature box. Also, regular training on LGBTQIA+ employment issues for all employees is key, and employment policies expressly stating that a company will not condone discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation against its LGBTQIA+ employees are all critical. Also, for companies that work with consumers regularly, such as those in the ARM industry, including business policies and procedures that are sensitive to their LGBTQIA+ consumers is essential.

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