Frank Morano is a former New Jersey Deputy Attorney General and is currently an attorney with the LGBT Law Firm Argentino Fiore Law & Advocacy, LLC.
I recently got the chance to speak with Frank, who is the least “lawery” lawyer I know, I mean he has GoGo danced at Furball! We sat down and chatted about his life, career, and how he joined an LGBT law Firm.
Richard Jones: Frank, thanks so much for chatting with me, tell me about yourself and your background.
Frank Morano: I grew up in a big Italian family in Bound Brook, NJ with all four grandparents and a great grandmother on my father’s side. My parents both worked so we spent all our time with our grandmothers and grandfathers. My grandmothers had a profound impact on me. They taught me how to cook, which I love to do to this day.
My mom never went to college and continues to be the smartest person I know. My dad received an associates degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan in the ‘70’s. I have an older brother and a younger sister. My best friends. My brother and I spent our younger years running around my parents clothing stores. And when the malls wiped out all the small clothing stores, my parents went into real estate and own their own business.
I received my undergraduate degree from Boston College. I met my ex-wife there. We fell in love and were married two years after college. I received my JD from Seton Hall School of Law in New Jersey. Several months after taking the bar exam in July of 2006, we welcomed my son, Frank Joseph. Our daughter Annie followed in 2009. They are the most amazing people I have ever met.
After law school I held a judicial clerkship for a criminal judge in Morris County, New Jersey. I had no intention of clerking for a criminal judge or to ever see a courtroom. However, my time as a criminal clerk showed me that practicing law is not all about sitting in a cube typing and fighting about someone’s money. I learned that the courtroom and all the participants can have a very real impact on another’s life. Criminal law was a very real practice of law. It was exciting and ever changing and made me feel as though real change was occurring.
I landed my first job with the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office as an Assistant Prosecutor. I began with prosecutions of juveniles, which may sound harsh, but was often quite the opposite. Juvenile prosecution, to me, was an ability for a prosecutor and defense attorney to work with the Judge and the resources available to help juveniles in trouble. Was it all uplifting and perfect? Oh god no. But for a person as sheltered as I was, it was the best experience I could have asked for.
I went on to prosecute on an adult trial team- drugs, guns, robbery, burglary, homicide. In the fall of 2014, I left the prosecutors office and went to work for the New Jersey Attorney General as a Deputy Attorney General. Before long, my experience led me to the gangs and organized crime prosecution unit.
Also, at this time, I realized it was time to come out. In September of 2015 I came out to my wife and my family. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. I won’t share a ton of the personal intimate details except for one: my ex-wife, the night I came out to her, told me not to come out and sit around, but do something with it. Help someone. Be someone. That stuck with me like glue. The road of divorce was rocky and emotionally very difficult. My children were great and both my ex and I had a lot of familial support, even from each other’s families. She remains one of my closest friends.
At the time, I was working for the Attorney General, trying criminal cases. It was difficult for me to come out to the many law enforcement colleagues I had. But one of them stood out and he was a huge support to me guiding me through. In the summer of 2016, I prosecuted a double homicide case as part of a two person team. It was months of preparation and weeks of trial. Defendant was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. The New Jersey Appellate Division affirmed the convictions last summer. The New Jersey Supreme Court denied his request to hear his case.
The summer of 2016 was exciting for me. I just came off the biggest trial of my life. I experienced my first New York Pride. The highlight, however, was my first trip to Bear Week in Provincetown. I met Paul in the fall of 2015. We became instant best friends and he showed me the ropes around New York City. A fairy godfather of sorts. If I had questions about dating, hooking up, or language, I went to Paul. He introduced me to everyone he knew and made sure that I was welcomed everywhere. It was a whirlwind. Friday and Saturdays at Boxers, Gym Bar, the Phoenix, and often ended up at the Eagle. So that winter, as we talked about going somewhere together, he asked where I always wanted to go. Now, truth be told, I had been to Provincetown before during Bear Week. A friend of mine from college had a home not far from P-town and we used to all gather there for a weekend every summer and head to Provincetown for dinner. One year it was Bear Week. I knew where I wanted to go.
We booked a room for a few days (neither of us at the time could do a full week) and we had a great time. Boatslip, parties, men. A perfect few days. I felt accepted and loved. Met some great guys from all over the country that I am still friends with to this day.
When I returned from Provincetown, I did not know my life was going to change drastically. I met Rob on July 27, 2016. On Scruff. I was seeing a guy in Park Slope and was leaving his apartment one afternoon. Rob hit me up. We got to talking and he asked me a question I was not expecting: What are you doing for dinner tonight? Not “Pics?” and not “Wanna come over?” I was floored. While I had plans that night and was leaving for a long weekend with my kids the next day, we made plans for dinner on Monday. I was nervous. I had been on dates and even dated someone for a few months, but I knew this was different. Before I knew it, I was spending my non-parenting time weekends with him and then some weekday nights. That fall he met my kids. The rest as they say, is history. In July 2018, in EPCOT Center (don’t judge LOL) he proposed in front of my entire family (and another adorable tourist family of four that happened to be eating ice cream near us- they clapped and cheered.)
I left the Attorney General’s Office in January of 2017. I began working for a small civil defense firm. Now that I was out of criminal prosecution and my life had settled down a bit, I could start getting more heavily involved in the legal community, and particularly, the LGBTQ+ legal community. I joined the LGBT Rights Section of the New State Bar Association. There I met Celeste Fiore and Jodi Argentino, who was chair of the section at the time. Jodi and Celeste are law partners and are married. We became instant friends. Within a few months I was nominated to be a trustee of the LGBT Rights Section. I was asked to participate in trainings for the judiciary. I began to understand the challenges of our community and the work that goes into keeping us on a progressive route. I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I went to every event I could. I met everyone I could meet. And I kept ending up hanging out with Jodi and Celeste.
In addition to my legal community involvement, I am also a member of the LGBTQ+ Community Reach Out panel at the State Theatre of New Jersey. I was doing something with my community and could not be happier.
In June of 2019, Jodi and Celeste called me on a random Monday. We were talking about a case they needed guidance on for a criminal component. We hung up and then twenty minutes later Jodi called back. She said she is going to email me a contract for employment and that she and Celeste wanted me to join their firm. I was thrilled and excited at the opportunity. I am now doing what I love with a group of people I love. It is so cliché when someone says when you are doing what you love you never work a day in your life. It is cliché. It is also true. I am now Counsel to Argentino Fiore Law & Advocacy and couldn’t be happier.
RJ: Frank that’s amazing, tell me what area of law does Argentino Fiore Law & Advocacy specialize in?
FM: Argentino Fiore Law & Advocacy, LLC – is an LGBTQ+ owned and operated, trauma informed practice. Our staff are either LGBTQ+ or allies and we are all trained to be culturally competent. Each one of us has our own business card color to reflect our diversity- and when put together make the rainbow. Our cards, letter signatures, and email signatures also reflect our pronouns and our preferred honorific (Mr., Ms., Mx. Etc.)
We specialize in family law and education. As to family law, we are particularly aware of the issues surrounding LGBTQ+ families and children and the special situations that surround those cases. We have represented polyamorous families in domestic violence cases and understand the complicated issues that surround those relationships. We spend a lot of time educating adversaries and the court system through the course of a case about these issues. With that said, we are an inclusive firm and handle matters no matter how clients identify. We handle divorce and civil union dissolution, child custody issues, name changes, domestic violence, prenuptial agreements, post-nuptial agreements, child support, among other areas.
As for name changes, we have a particular focus on name changes for transgender minors. Name changes are usually public record and there is a publishing component. We have been successful in motions to seal records and waive publication in order to protect the identity of our clients. Our clients should choose whether or not to “out” themselves and, at the same time, live their best lives with the name they want and the name that is comfortable for them.
Our education practice involves special education and IEP issues. We also advocate for victims of harassment, intimidation, and bullying. I do practice some criminal defense, but usually if it involves one of our family or education matters. The same with my municipal court practice.
Our paralegal Ali is working on their masters degrees in counselling. Our Owner Jodi, is currently finishing up her Masters in Developmental Psychology. Our firm believes that taking care of our clients requires an understanding of the emotional toll of these types of cases have.
The firm also handles matters concerning issues within the BDSM community. We have represented clients that are members of the BDSM community that are victims of domestic abuse where the issue is consensual play verses acts of domestic violence. Jodi Argentino has had custody matters where one parent is a member of the BDSM community and the other parent has brought that up as a “concern” relative to the child. That sort of issue requires a lot of understanding and explanation to a fact finder. The firm has consulted on BDSM issues in other states and Jodi Argentino has presented on the subject of BDSM Issues in Family Law at the National LGBT Bar Association Conference. The other part of our practice is advocacy. The attorneys are members of numerous boards and committees. We provide training for legal groups and non-legal groups. We provide training in LGBTQ+ cultural competency, legal issues, language, and current trends in the LGBTQ+ legal community, among other topics. The attorneys often speak about their personal experiences as we all differ in what we have experienced in life and in our careers.
RJ: What are you and your colleagues experiencing because of “lockdown” etc?
FM: We are lucky that we were already working remotely a lot to begin with. We are all very busy and spend a lot of time in court and at different events and conferences. While we have never spent this much time at home, the transition was very smooth for us.
We have always been completely open and available for our clients whenever they needed us. With the quarantine, I think that it really has hit home for our clients how accessible we are. We continue to fight hard for our clients and have even had several successful cases in front of the state Appellate Court since the quarantine.
We are finding that most matters continue to move forward and we are there for it. We have not stopped for a moment since lockdown went into effect. We have appeared for hearings, trial calls, and even oral argument in front of the Appellate Court. We continue to fight for final restraining orders for our domestic violence victims and we are continuing our advocacy through virtual training and symposiums.
RJ: Final question, what should people do when they think they need a lawyer or have legal issues?
FM: If you are having a hard time with an issue it’s always good to consult an attorney. Do your research though. Not every attorney is right for everyone. While our practice is mainly family, education, and discrimination law, we have a very wide network of LGBT attorneys and LGBT culturally competent attorneys that we work with. Most times if you need an attorney it is because something is going wrong. Having a lawyer that understands your particular issues within the community makes a world of difference. We try to provide that either within our firm or make sure we refer a client to a well vetted attorney that we know can handle the issue.
Richard is the Editor of Queer Forty. He’s also the CEO of Bear World Media, the parent company of Queer Forty. As a 40-something gay man, he is passionate about creating good, informative and entertaining content for the over 40 LGBTQ Community.