According to Evanston Assistant Corporation Counsel Mario Treto, much of his workboth in his professional life and his volunteer activitiesis about providing a voice for the voiceless.
"I like to be in a position to advocate for individuals who might be unable to otherwise advocate for themselvesjust having a seat at the table to discuss issues that are important," Treto said.
Treto was this year named to the National LGBT Bar Association's annual list of the Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40. That list honors 40 outstanding LGBT legal professionals "under the age of 40 who have distinguished themselves in their field and demonstrated a commitment to LGBT equality," according to a release from the organization.
Other Chicago-area honorees include Tony Neuhoff, a vice president of legal and compliance at GCM Grosvenor; Russell King, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP; and Louis Klapp, a senior associate at Quarles & Brady LLP. The awards will be presented during the Lavender Law Conference & Career Fair in San Francisco on Thursday, Aug. 3.
"I'm pretty excited, and pretty humbled, to be part of a group with 39 other individuals across the country who are moving forward and helping with LGBT causes, in a variety of capacities," Treto, who is a Chicago native and who currently lives in Lake View, said.
As assistant corporate counsel for Evanston, he is lead counsel on a number of the suburb's boards and commissions, and is especially involved with Evanston's Planning Commission, among other planning-and development-related entities. He also acts as attorney for the mayor and city council in various matters.
One of Treto's first tasks when he went to work for the City of Evanston was update its Human Rights Ordinance to cover its transgender residents. "That was done by adding gender identity as a protected class," he recalled. "I worked with [former Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl] and the city council to move that forward."
In 2016, Treto also worked alongside state officials to amend local ordinances to cover gender-neutral washrooms in the city as well.
"There was a lot of interplay with the state plumbing-code, that ultimately led to restrictions about how you could implement gender-neutral restrooms," he said. "It was a lengthy process, but in doing so the state agreed to modify its code to permit the City of Evanston to be the first municipality to pass a gender-neutral restroom ordinance in the state of Illinois."
Treto also mentioned that he's especially proud of his longtime volunteer work on behalf of Howard Brown Health. He currently is a member of that organization's executive board.
"With the political uncertainty about health care access at the present moment, it's really important to carefully navigate the clinical uncertainty and disparitiesthat's something I'm committed to," he said. "Entities like Howard Brown Health provide culturally competent care without decreasing quality of services that patients receive."
The City of Evanston has always been "open to discussions" when he has advocated on behalf of Evanstonians whose issues might be perceived to be on society's margins, according to Treto.
"In talking about any sort of issue that community members or visitors want to have addressed, there's always an open ear," he said.