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GLAD lawyer is credited for legal strategy advancing gay marriage

Posted Mar 27, 2013 2:09 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Mary Bonauto. Photo from
GLAD.

Lawyer Mary Bonauto has been likened to the Thurgood Marshall of the gay-rights world for her work on same-sex marriage cases.

The chief civil rights lawyer for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, Bonauto “is a quiet celebrity” in the world of gay legal advocacy, the New York Times reports. “Most Americans have never heard of Mary Bonauto,” the story says. But some say she is “almost single-handedly responsible for the same-sex marriage cases now pending before the Supreme Court.”

The story outlines her achievements. Bonauto spurred Vermont to create civil unions in 2000, won the Massachusetts case establishing a right to gay marriage in 2003, and won a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act in the Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2012.

But the case considered by the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday is not Bonauto’s, the story says. The court instead heard a case from New York, a move that prevented Justice Elena Kagan from recusing herself since she had discussed Bonauto’s case as solicitor general.

Lawyer Roberta Kaplan prepared to argue the DOMA case with Bonauto’s help. Kaplan acknowledged Bonauto’s ground-breaking work in an interview with the Times. “No gay person in this country would be married without Mary Bonauto,” Kaplan told the newspaper.

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