Luminaries in the fields of adoption and foster care, law and policy, nonprofit management, surrogacy & egg donation, Broadway & television, and more join Family Equality in the movement for current and future LGBTQ+ families
New York, NY – Today, Family Equality, the leading national organization for current and future LGBTQ+ families, announced that Maria Bates, Weston Charles-Gallo, Tony Hynes, Vanessa Leon, Douglas London, and Alec Mapa have joined the organization’s National Board of Directors. Family Equality’s Board of Directors is critical to sustaining, supporting, and informing the organization’s work to ensure that everyone can experience the unconditional love, safety, and belonging of family.
“These exceptional advocates bring a valuable and diverse wealth of experience, skills, and expertise to our Board of Directors,” said Chief Executive Officer, Stacey Stevenson. “I have no doubt that this dynamic group will be invaluable to our efforts for current and future LGBTQ+ families, and I am thrilled by the opportunity to work closely with them moving forward.”
Maria Bates is an attorney licensed in Florida and Washington D.C. and the principal of Maria Bates Law PLLC. She has offices in Orlando, Tampa Bay, and Washington D.C. She primarily focuses her practice on family formation and protection (assisted reproduction, child welfare, adoption, estate & special needs planning), business and nonprofit development, and visionary impact projects. She received her B.A. in Human Development with a minor in Latin American Studies from Eckerd College in 1997, her J.D. from Stetson University College of Law in 2007, and her LLM in Business Law from Florida State University in 2021.
Maria has been an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ+ rights since she was first quoted publicly on the subject at 21 when she attended her first Pride parade. She was one of the three founders of Securing Our Children’s Rights which worked to end the ban on gay adoption in Florida. She was a principal author of a shadow report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee on the US implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as it related to sexual minorities and has been quoted in media articles related to LGBTQ adoptions and family building.
In addition to serving on the Board of Directors for Family Equality, Maria is involved in the American Bar Association, serves as an advisory board member to the Florida Adoption Information Center, and has provided commentary and specialized training on adoption interventions, foster care adoptions, special needs children, and other family and community-focused issues.
Weston Charles Gallo
Weston entered the foster care system at age 14 when his biological parents neglected him for identifying as gay. After hospitalizations, shelters, and foster home placements, he was in care for one year before he found his forever family with his two dads and six siblings. Now, he is an LGBTQ+ advocate for youth with lived experience in foster care, where he highlights the importance of same-sex couples being allowed to foster and adopt. He was a member of the Youth Speak Out Team in KCMO, which worked to raise awareness of the experiences of foster youth and the challenges they face. Weston worked alongside that team on a Bill of Rights for Foster Care Youth and in the summer of 2017, the bill was passed and signed by the Governor of Missouri. He is a former Youth Ambassador for the Human Rights Campaign, where he continued to share his journey and raise awareness for LGBTQ+ issues that youth across the country face every day. He was honored with the FosterClub Outstanding Young Leader Award for his continuous work advocating for LGBTQ+ youth with lived experience in foster care. Weston now is a part of an advocacy leadership team working to pass the John Lewis Every Child Deserves A Family Act as well as becoming a spokesperson for the Adopt US Kids speakers bureau. Recently he testified before Congress before the Ways and Means committee on ” How to Make the Lives of Foster Care Youth and Families Better.” From that, he was nominated and awarded a Good News Hero Award by LGBTQ Nation. He has been featured on NBC News, Yahoo News, Proud Parenting, the Daily Beast, and USA Today. He is also a recent graduate of Pittsburg State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies with an interest in public relations and political communication.
Tony was adopted by his parents, Mary and Janet, in the mid-1990s. He writes about his experiences growing up as both an interracial adoptee and as a child growing up in an LGBTQ-headed household in his memoir “The Son With Two Moms,” a text that has been cited in the family court system to highlight best practices. Today, Tony is an advocate for families like his, having served on the Board of Directors for organizations that help to highlight adoptive families from diverse upbringings. He has been invited to be a speaker at conferences on adoption and foster care throughout the nation and has a passion for standing up for children and families not given a platform to speak about their experiences. Tony completed his master’s thesis in Sociology on the psychology of children within the same-sex headed household and is now completing his Ph.D. studies in Language, Literacy, and Culture at the Univ. of Maryland Baltimore County, where he has begun work on his dissertation, which focuses on social connectedness among adult, interracial adoptees. As the Training Specialist at the Center for Adoption Support and Education, Tony has designed innovative training curriculums that help families and professionals respond to evaluation and assessment tools that encapsulate holistic pictures of adoptees and foster youth.
Vanessa Leon is the Director of Strategic Development at Growing Generations, a surrogacy and egg donation agency. She began her career with the agency in 2004 as an Administrative Coordinator and later worked as a Client Services Coordinator. Vanessa is always working to improve the Growing Generations experience and is grateful that she gets to continually witness so many families being created and the bonds that are shared through this life-changing path to parenthood.
After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Emerson College in Boston, Vanessa moved to Los Angeles. While in Los Angeles she was involved with multiple recreational sports leagues and volunteered with various organizations. She also received her copyediting certificate from UC San Diego Extension. She is currently pursuing her executive MBA through the Lee School of Business at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. Vanessa currently resides in Las Vegas with her partner and their two dogs and is regularly surrounded by immediate and extended family who live nearby.
Doug has invested his entire career in the service of nonprofit organizations, helping them elevate their performance to successfully deliver on their missions. As an Executive Vice President of CCS Fundraising, the largest fundraising management and consulting firm in the world, Doug serves as a trusted partner to signature clients and is a member of the leadership team that oversees the firm’s 350+ consulting staff.
Since joining CCS in 2013, Doug has designed, advised, and directed development initiatives and capital campaigns that have raised more than $2B, strengthening communities, and positively impacting tens of thousands of lives. He has partnered with organizations across the United States and beyond including Be The Match Foundation, Detroit Country Day School, Obama Foundation, St. Louis Children’s Hospital Foundation, University of Global Health Equity, University of Chicago Medicine, and University of Texas Health Science Center. He spearheaded the creation of CCS’s first LGBTQI+ employee resource group and continues to serve as the group’s leader and executive sponsor. He also leads the firm’s Working Parents Community and serves as a member of the DEI working group.
A proud and active alumnus of Lake Forest College, Doug currently provides leadership as their Alumni Council President and participates in the College’s mentor program. He is also a member of the Jewish Federation of North America’s New Young Leadership Cabinet.
Doug resides in Chicago with his husband, Matt, their twins Calvin and Mabel, and pup Franklin.
Alec Mapa is an actor, comedian, and activist. He has worked on Broadway, television, and film for nearly 40 years. His credits include his Showtime comedy special “Alec Mapa: Baby Daddy,” Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty, Doom Patrol, and Queen Bees opposite Ellen Burstyn.
He has worked nationwide as a fundraiser for The Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, The Gay and Lesbian Task Force, The Matthew Shepard Foundation and Raise A Child. Through his work with Raise A Child, he has recruited LGBTQ+ parents interested in adoption through foster care and has lobbied in Washington DC on behalf of the Every Child Deserves A Family Act.
He lives in Los Angeles with his husband, Jamison Hebert (Producer, Ghost Hunters), and their son Zion.
About Family Equality
Family Equality advances legal and lived equality for LGBTQ+ families, and for those who wish to form them, through building community, changing hearts and minds, and driving policy change. Family Equality believes every LGBTQ+ person should have the right and opportunity to form and sustain a loving family, regardless of who they are or where they live. Learn more at familyequality.org.
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