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#CovHasPride Spotlight Series: Kevin Poloncarz

June 17, 2019

Kevin is recognized as a leading lawyer on California’s air quality and climate change programs. Resident in the firm’s San Francisco office, Kevin is ranked by Chambers USA among the nation’s leading climate change attorneys and California’s leading environmental lawyers, with sources describing him as “a phenomenal” and “tremendous lawyer.”

Kevin is a member of the boards of the Environmental Law Institute and the Center for Applied Environmental Law and Policy and a fellow of the American College of Environmental Lawyers.

What prompted your interest in a legal career?

Like many among us, I was idealistic and saw law school as a way to equip myself to advance civil rights. I was designated the “Stonewall Scholar” - after the famous Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village, which sparked the modern LGBT rights movement - and given a scholarship funded by alums of my law school for the student most likely to use his or her legal education for the advancement of LGBT rights. While in law school, I became a plaintiff in an ACLU case challenging the City of Chicago’s sponsorship of a Boy Scouts of America (BSA) “law explorer” program. I had intended to continue following the path towards civil rights work (I even got my highest grade from Barack Obama in Con Law IV: Equal Protection!) but my lawyer from the ACLU, a Yale Law grad a few years senior to me, made it abundantly clear that good jobs with groups doing high-profile work were hard to come by. By this time, I had also become enamored with the Clean Air Act so I decided to give environmental law and private practice a try instead.

What role do allies play in pursuit of LGBTQ equality?

Allies are incredibly important and can signal inclusion in small ways. In 2008, California voters passed a constitutional amendment declaring that only marriage between a man and a woman was valid and recognized in the state. The next day, an associate asked me, “how is your husband?” I’d just been married six weeks earlier and there was some question about whether my marriage would still be valid. The associate’s question was a small gesture that made clear to me that, regardless what had just happened and the ensuing legal confusion, she recognized my relationship as worthy of the same respect. It meant a lot to me and I still remember it.

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