LGBTQ Proud – Pride Profiles
Erica Pietranton and Emily Wagner
Leech Tishman – Partner, Commercial Litigation; Chair-Elect of the ACBA LGBT Rights Committee
McGuire Woods – Counsel, Complex Commercial Litigation; Chair of the ACBA LGBT Rights Committee
Pictured, left to right: Emily and Erica
Photo credit: Wild Native Photography
How did you meet?
We met while working together at the same law firm a few years ago. Interestingly, we actually are from the same (very small) hometown in West Virginia, just outside of Pittsburgh, but we didn’t meet one another until our paths crossed at our former firm retreat. Our relationship has been a remarkable journey, and we are looking forward to our wedding this October.
What does Pride mean to you?
Erica: Pride is a celebration of our true self-expression. As a member of the LGBTQ community, it’s a joyful time of the year to focus even more on love and togetherness.
Emily: Pride is the ultimate expression of the triumph and perseverance of our community. It reminds me of the progress we have made, as well as the work that remains to be done.
What do you find inspirational about Pride?
Erica: It’s a truly remarkable and encouraging movement – to see our community come together to celebrate both our shared aspirations for equality and our unique individuality as members of the LGBTQ family.
Emily: Pride is inspiring in the freedom so many feel to express themselves and their love for one enough in a truly judgment-free zone.
What is your favorite LGBTQ character from a movie, TV show, or book and why?
Erica: David Rose from Schitt’s Creek. Emily and I discovered this series during COVID, and it became our escape from reality to moments of pure happiness and tons of laughter. David, in particular, is a profound LGBTQ character, who shares with the audience vulnerability, growth, perseverance, and genuine love, with a perfect dose of sarcasm. I think he’s a character that many in our community view as a positive beacon, plus the show is filled with incredible writing and character development. David, played by Daniel Levy, who is a real-life LGBTQ hero, is just incredible.
Emily: Ellen Degeneres is my favorite persona. She leads by example with kindness, humor, and acceptance. She also paved the way for so many others to come out and live their life in an honest and open way.
What movie, TV show, or book would you recommend to someone who wants to be a better LGBTQ ally?
Erica: I’m going with Schitt’s Creek again. It is, I think, a series almost everyone who watches loves. It’s portrayal of David is so well done and authentic, and I think it’s truly helpful for any ally or would-be ally to see that kind of strong character, and his family and friends’ unconditional acceptance of him.
Emily: I would recommend Milk, and Sean Penn’s portrayal of politician Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in San Francisco in the 1970s. Milk is an inspiring gay rights activist whose encouragement for us to live as our true selves has resonated with me through my personal journey.
Who is your LGBTQ hero or role model and why?
Erica: I have an immense amount of gratitude for the members of our community who fought for equality long before me, such as those who led the Stonewall Riots, including Marsha P. Johnson. Also, I’m a huge fan of women’s soccer, particularly the USWNT, and players like Megan Rapinoe and Ali Krieger who have used their platform to give our community a voice are some of those I most admire.
Emily: I have to give credit again to Ellen for serving as a role model to all of us, not just those in the LGBT community. Her efforts to spread empathy and love are truly inspiring.
What advice would you give a young LGBTQ lawyer beginning their practice today?
Erica: Be confident in who you are and find a place where you can be yourself. The right fit for you is a place where you are made to feel welcome and comfortable.
Emily: Be brave. Know that despite the progress we have made to secure equal rights, you will confront hurdles that may seem insurmountable, but don’t give up. We all can effect change in others.
What advice would you give legal employers about what they can do to make workplaces LGBTQ welcoming and supportive?
Erica: I think it’s important to simply make people feel accepted and welcome, especially members of our community and other diverse groups – actions is important rather than mere words. Beyond that, take the initiative to have an LGBTQ or general diversity resource or committee of some kind available to employees.
Emily: In my view, directives of acceptance and support have to come from the very top. Make it clear in the written communications to all employees that you will not tolerate discrimination or harassment in any form, and then lead by example.