Toby Phoebe E. Adams, Esq. is a rather long title. Also a rather new one. I used to just be Toby: mom, activist, perpetual student. Now I am also an attorney. I live in Northern California. I was born in 1964 on the east coast. I am bisexual. I am married to a woman. We have a special needs child, who also happens to be entering teenager-hood. I have been clean and sober for a long time, but seem to be perpetually a newcomer in some other areas of life. I have had a lot of jobs (DJ, seamstress, roadie, etc.) and done a lot of things (ski bum, hanggliding, IEP meetings, etc.)… and I’m only about half way through this long strange trip called life.
The following is a longer Bio:
In May 2012 I graduated with distinction in the top 15% of my class at University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law. I took and excelled in Family Law, Juvenile Law, Sexual Orientation and Gender Law, Mental Disability Law, and the ADA. I have held many law clerk positions, including at the Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Transgender Law Center. With an MBA, a paralegal degree, and many years of professional experience, I am not your typical new attorney. In addition to my many years helping families with their legal document needs I have also worked as a law clerk helping dozens of LGBT people and their families with issues of custody and alternative family legal status, and helping disabled employees filing employment discrimination claims.
I have a passion for advancing the civil rights of LGBTQIA people, women, the disabled, and foster children, and am in the process of beginning a career in public service law.
I’ve always been an avid reader and a very academically-driven person. I skipped 2 grades and started college at the age of 16. I attended my first year of college at the school where my mother taught, University of Connecticut, studying Music and Design/Technical Theater Arts, before transferring to Berklee College of Music in Boston to study Music Production and Engineering. I worked part time throughout my college years. After completing all my coursework in 1986 with a 3.06 GPA it took me 2 more years to pass the highest level voice proficiency required for the degree. As I’ve always done, I reached my goal to graduate from Berklee, in spite of all obstacles.
During my final year at Berklee I started my own company: AVATAR Productions. I engineered and produced studio recordings; did sound and lighting for live concerts, plays, and corporate events; and produced videos. I was Assistant Engineer on an album released by CBS records, and on scores for the American Repertory Theater, among many others. One of my biggest accomplishments in the entertainment business was winning the Sigma Theta Tau Media Award for Excellence in Nursing Journalism for production of “MICA: Problems and Solutions in Treating the Mentally Ill/Chemically Addicted” (educational video, 1991). During these years I even managed to attend night school for a year at Northeastern University to become fluent in American Sign Language, a language I had always wanted to learn.
I faced a lot of discrimination in the entertainment business, but I never gave up and even managed to get touring work, which was quite a feat for a sober woman with a disability. I relocated my business from Boston to Hollywood, and I toured with Oingo Boingo, David Benoit, and a theater company that performed classic literature for children at middle schools. I worked tour rehearsals for Fleetwood Mac, Michael Jackson, Cher, Madonna, and many others. I supervised as many as 60 stagehands (almost all of whom were men) on some shows.
After almost 10 years of running my own business it was time to pursue my dream of graduate school. I knew where I was going and what I wanted to do: get an MBA, get a good job with good pay and health insurance, buy a house and have a baby. I was able to finish my MBA at San Jose State in a year and a half, while working and supporting myself first as an Audio/Visual (A/V) Technician and then as a Teaching Assistant and Tutor. It was invigorating to be challenging my brain, and I loved teaching others. I had already started developing an interest in the Law at this point and took an elective in Entertainment Law and Contracts. One A/V job I worked on was the Hewlett-Packard Technical Women’s Conference, and I decided that this was the company I wanted to work for.
I set out and accomplished all the steps I knew would lead me to Hewlett-Packard (HP) including a high GPA (3.65) and contacts in the industry. After 9 months as a contract Technical Writer for HP through Manpower, I was hired full time in January, 1996. I was promoted over the years and won several awards. From 1996-1998 I served as the A/V Committee Co-Chair for the HP Technical Women’s Conference, the same conference that had inspired me to join the HP family, and from 2004-2006 I served as the Communications Officer for the HP Global PRIDE Council and Leader of the Roseville PRIDE LGBT Employee Resource Group. Outside HP I volunteered as a Chair of South Bay Bisexual Organizers and Activists (2000); became a Certified Project Manager (2004-2009); founded the Placer County chapter of the LGBT rights organization which is now Marriage Equality USA (2003-2009); and was a Board Member for the Auburn Youth Soccer League (2005-2006).
I realized that I had met all my goals: I was a highly paid IT Project Manager at HP with a beautiful daughter, a house in Auburn, and a lovely wife. I had reached all my goals, so where could I go now? I needed a bigger goal, and I knew what it was. The only barrier I hadn’t been able to overcome in life was all tied up in that one little word: “wife”.
Ever since our wedding ceremony on July 19, 2003 my wife and I have felt the sting of not having the legal rights and social acceptance of a civil marriage license. I’ve done a lot to move those rights forward: we got married a second time at San Francisco City Hall in February, 2004; a third time in MA at Cambridge City Hall in October, 2004; and finally got a legal CA state marriage on July 19, 2008. I was interviewed on TV, radio, and in the press; and worked as a volunteer and intern on campaigns to move forward the rights of domestic partners in CA and move towards full state marriage rights for all same-sex couples. However I am well aware of the reality that we will never have equal marriage rights until the US Supreme Court declares that the various state and federal “defense of marriage” amendments are unconstitutional and legalizes same-sex marriage on a Federal level. Likewise, we will never have full civil rights until the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is made law. Even after all these laws are passed, there will be court cases to enforce them, and years of social change.
This is a battle which will take decades, just as the civil rights movement for African-Americans did. It is clear to me that the people who have the real power to make changes in this civil rights movement are those with law degrees: executive directors of national GLBT rights groups, lobbyists, legislators, judges, and the lawyers who will try the precedent setting cases. I am inspired by cases such as Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Loving v. Virginia (1967), and Lawrence v. Texas (2003) which make me see that the law is a live and growing thing, while being rooted firmly in our constitution.
I am driven and passionate about spending the rest of my life winning the respect and rights that the family I have built deserves. My family is just as committed. It appalls me that we are treated as second class citizens in this country. My interests in the law lead me to attain an Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies from MTI College in Sacramento with a 4.0 GPA, start my own Legal Document Assistant business focused on helping GLBT families, and finally attain my law degree from McGeorge in 2012. I have studied the US Constitution and I believe that the founders of our country, although they may never have imagined a family like mine, wrote a broad and inclusive document that protects our rights. I have great faith in our constitution and the system based upon it. I believe positive change is possible if people like me have the commitment to study the law, take on leadership roles, and make it happen.