Taking Marriage Over the Finish Line

GLAD Civil Rights Project Director Mary L. Bonauto argued before the U.S. Supreme Court April 28, 2015 on behalf of same-sex couples challenging their states’ marriage bans. She stood on behalf of petitioners April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse in the Michigan case DeBoer v. Snyder and Timothy Love, Lawrence Ysunza, Maurice Blanchard and Dominique James in the Kentucky case Love v. Beshear (joined with Bourke v. Beshear) and same-sex couples across the country.

June 26, 2015: Victory! In a blockbuster legal and cultural moment for the country, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples in the United States, no matter where they live, have the same legal right to marry as different-sex couples. Read More

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Background: GLAD’s work for marriage in New England and beyond

GLAD won the first marriage state in Massachusetts in 2003 with our Goodridge case, and took part in winning every New England state by every conceivable method – ballotlegislation, and litigation. We laid the groundwork for the defeat of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in our cases Gill and Pedersen.

We developed unparalleled expertise in winning marriage, and helped our colleagues across the nation do the same. Since the Supreme Court struck down DOMA in June 2013 (Windsor), GLAD has remained steadfast in its commitment to ending marriage discrimination nationwide.


GLAD also helped movement colleagues and private attorneys with their amicus strategies:

  • GLAD wrote an amicus brief at the request of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the ACLU on behalf of New Mexico civil rights groups in the case Griego v. Oliver in the New Mexico Supreme Court in September 2013.
  • GLAD led coordination of the amicus briefs in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals after trial court wins in Utah and Oklahoma. GLAD’s work in the 10th Circuit, the first federal appeals court to hear marriage cases post-Windsor, has streamlined the process for amici curiae filings in all of the other cases pending at a U.S. Court of Appeals.
  • GLAD has also played an extensive role in coordinating amici filings in the 4th (Virginia, Bostic v. Shaefer), 5th (Texas, DeLeon v. Perry), 6th (Michigan, DeBoer v. Snyder; Ohio, Obergefell v. Himes, Henry v. Himes; Tennessee, Tanco v. Haslam; Kentucky, Bourke v. Beshear) and 11th (Florida, Grimsley v. Scott and Brenner v. Armstrong) circuits.

GLAD’s Own Amici Briefs

In virtually every federal appeal, GLAD filed its own amicus brief discussing “rational basis review.”

These briefs reinforce the government’s guarantee of equal protection and its promise of even-handedness when the rights of persons are at stake. We set forth the two elements of rational basis review:

  1. the government’s actions in classifying who can and cannot marry must be for “legitimate” reasons rather than because of stereotypes, prejudice or favoritism; and
  2. the classification system – who is in and who is out – must have a relationship to the government’s claimed objectives.

Under these standards, GLAD’s briefs demolish each rationale advanced by the states defending their marriage bans and the amicus briefs supporting the state’s positions.

GLAD’s briefs were authored with Wilmer Hale attorneys Paul Wolfson, Mark Fleming, Alan Schoenfeld, Felicia Ellsworth and Dina Mishra.

See our briefs in the 10th Circuit (Kitchen v. Herbert); the 4th Circuit (Bostic v. Shaefer); the 6th Circuit ) Obergefell v. Himes, Henry v. Himes, DeBoer v. Snyder, Bourke v. Beshear, Tanco v. Haslam); the 7th Circuit (Baskin v. Bogan); and the 5th Circuit (DeLeon v. Perry).

GLAD consulted with attorneys around the nation about legal arguments and strategy in marriage and marriage recognition cases in both state and federal courts.

For example, we were on the ground when the Michigan case DeBoer v. Snyder went to trial, identifying and prepping expert witnesses and providing trial support to the legal team of private attorneys (Carole Stanyar, Kenneth Mogill, Dana Nessel and Robert Sedler).

The judge found in favor of the couple, and the case was then heard on appeal (on August 6, 2014) at the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently issued a decision upholding bans on marriage for same-sex couples in Michigan as well as Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee. The Supreme Court has now agreed to review all four cases this Term.