Champion LGBT Attorney Mary Bonauto Awarded Prestigious MacArthur Foundation Fellowship

by Charles Joughin

LGBT civil rights, marriage equality leader recognized for pioneering advocacy

WASHINGTON – Today the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced the recipients of its prestigious fellowship for 2014.  Among those honored this year is Mary Bonauto, Civil Rights Project Director for Gay and Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).  Bonauto has been referred to as the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community’s Thurgood Marshall, and has been behind many of the historic legal victories advancing LGBT civil rights throughout the last three decades.  Following the release of the 2014 recipient list, Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Chad Griffin issued the following statement:

“There’s no question that Mary Bonauto’s trailblazing advocacy and unmatched wisdom have given the LGBT community many of our greatest and most pioneering legal victories.  Mary and the team at GLAD gave this country its first marriage equality victory, catapulting the issue from a long held dream to a tangible reality. She’s been rightly called the marriage movement’s Thurgood Marshall and I have no doubt that she will use this grant to continue breaking down barriers to equality and justice for LGBT people and our families.”

In 1999, Bonauto led the legal challenge in Baker v. State of Vermont, in which the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to all of the benefits and protections of marriage – making the Green Mountain State the first to grant civil unions to gay and lesbian couples. Three years later she successfully argued Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, the landmark case that won marriage equality for Massachusetts – the first state in the nation to allow same-sex couples to marry. Mary led GLAD's challenges against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), achieving the first District Court and Circuit Court victories against the discriminatory federal law.  When the Supreme Court of the United States struck down key portions of DOMA in United States v. Windsor, Mary helped lead advocacy to ensure the federal government implemented the Windsor ruling as broadly and swiftly as possible.  

Bonauto is joined on the list by lesbian artist, author and activist Alison Bechdel, whose representations of women and LGBT people have been recognized across the globe.  Her 2006 book, Fun Home, was a critical success and was named by TIME Magazine as one of the "10 Best Books of the Year." It also prompted the South Carolina House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee to cut the College of Charleston's funding by $52,000 as punishment for selecting Fun Home for a summer reading program.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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