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September 17, 2014

GLAD’s Mary Bonauto Receives MacArthur Foundation Fellowship

The MacArthur Foundation announced today that Mary L. Bonauto, Civil Rights Project Director for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), has been awarded a 2014 MacArthur Fellowship, sometimes referred to as a “genius grant.” The Fellowships are awarded annually to “talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.” 

Watch the video profile of Mary Bonauto from the MacArthur Foundation

“We are thrilled for Mary and for the LGBT movement,” said Gary Buseck, GLAD’s interim executive director and longtime legal director. “Mary is without a doubt one of the most visionary and hardworking people in our movement, and at the same time one of the most genuinely modest. Not only is this award well-deserved recognition for Mary, but it’s an opportunity for us to highlight the movement for LGBT equality and all that remains to be done.”

“This award is a testament to the justice-seeking work of innumerable people all across the nation,” said Bonauto. “I deeply appreciate the Foundation’s vote of confidence in our movement’s work as we strive to remove barriers to LGBT people’s full participation in society. So many have given so much to bring us to this point – whether our courageous plaintiffs or people whose names history may never know – and every bit of it has mattered. This honor is an investment in a better future for all.”

Mary Bonauto started her work at GLAD in 1990.  She has litigated widely in state and federal courts on issues of employment discrimination, free speech, civil rights, and family law.  She is nationally recognized as an architect of the marriage equality movement, starting with her role in the 1999 case Baker v. State of Vermont, which led to the nation’s first civil union law.

She went on to become lead counsel in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, the landmark case which resulted in Massachusetts becoming the first state where same-sex couples could legally marry, starting in May 2004. Goodridge opened the door to a decade of progress.  Today same-sex couples can marry in 19 states and the District of Columbia, and the issue may be decided nationally by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 2014-2015 term.  Bonauto and Buseck recently joined the legal team in the Utah case Kitchen v. Herbert, which is one of the cases that may be heard.

Bonauto also litigated two cases challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), producing the first federal court rulings that DOMA is unconstitutional, and laying the groundwork for last year’s Supreme Court victory in United States v. Windsor, in which DOMA was struck down by the Court.

“When governments exclude same-sex couples from marrying, they impose an official taint of unworthiness and otherness on gay people and our relationships.  Securing the freedom to marry has brought great joy and security for many, as well as a greater understanding of LGBT people’s common humanity.  But marriage is not an endpoint,” said Bonauto.“We still have to create a world in which LGBT people are embraced, not just tolerated; where LGBT kids are fully supported in every part of their lives; where transgender people have full legal protections and access to healthcare; where HIV is eradicated; where elders don’t go back into the closet to get appropriate care, and so much more.  Like others once denied rights and protections under law, we seek a world where we can all live, work and vote in our communities without being held back or singled out because of who we are.  I am as committed as ever to our nation’s bedrock promises of liberty and equality for all.”

Bonauto is a graduate of Hamilton College and Northeastern University School of Law.  She is a past co-chair of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Committee of the American Bar Association, and serves on the Honorary Board of the Boston Chapter of the American Constitution Society.

To learn more about GLAD’s history and the challenges of the future, visit www.glad.org.  To learn more about the MacArthur awards and to see a video about Bonauto, visit www.macfound.org.