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Staff Profile


Mary L. Bonauto
Civil Rights Project Director
Photo of Mary L. Bonauto

Mary L. Bonauto has been the Civil Rights Project Director at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders since 1990. She has litigated in the state and federal courts of New England on discrimination issues, parental rights, free speech and religious liberty, and relationship recognition.

Mary and two Vermont co-counsel won a 1999 ruling in Baker v. State of Vermont which led to the nation’s first civil union law. She was lead counsel in the groundbreaking case Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, which made Massachusetts the first state where same-sex couples could legally marry in 2004. Mary also co-counseled in Kerrigan v. Department of Public Health, in which the Connecticut Supreme Court also ruled for marriage, advocated in state legislatures for marriage, and served on the Executive Committee of the 2009 and 2012 Maine ballot campaigns.  She led GLAD's federal court challenges to DOMA in Gill and Pedersen, leading to the first District Court and Court of Appeals victories against DOMA, and then coordinated amici briefs for the Windsor case at the Supreme Court. 

Mary is currently a member of the legal team in the Michigan marriage case DeBoer v. Snyder, and argued before the U.S. Supreme Court April 28 on behalf of DeBoer petitioners April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, Love v. Beshear (Kentucky) petitioners Timothy Love, Lawrence Ysunza, Maurice Blanchard and Dominique James, and same-sex couples throughout the country who are still excluded from marriage.

Mary’s work has been recognized with numerous awards, including the 2014 MacArthur Fellowship.  She is the Shikes Fellow in Civil Liberties and Civil Rights and Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, and has also served as co-chair of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Committee of the American Bar Association’s Section on Individual Rights and Responsibilities.

Mary graduated from Hamilton College and Northeastern University School of Law.

Boston Globe, September 2014: Mary Bonauto's MacArthur Grant - Social Change Takes Genius
New York Times March 2013: In Fight for Marriage Rights, ‘She’s Our Thurgood Marshall’
Buzzfeed, November 2013: How One Lawyer Turned the Idea of Marriage Equality into Reality
Mary Bonauto featured in The Advocate, December 2004
The Boston Globe Magazine's People of the Year, December 2004