Winter 2005 #4. Interview: Mary Bonauto's quest for gay equality.

Author:Interview by Pamela Trudo

Maine Bar Journal


Winter 2005 #4.

Interview: Mary Bonauto's quest for gay equality

Maine Bar JournalWinter 2005INTERVIEW: MARY BONAUTO'S QUEST FOR GAY EQUALITYInterview by Pamela (c) Copyright 2005Mary Bonauto of Portland has been the civil rights project director at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) in Boston since 1990. As GLAD's website says, her practice concentrates on impact litigation for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, as well as people living with hiv or aids. She has litigated widely in the state and federal courts and agencies of the six New England states for the last twelve years. In 1999, she and two Vermont co-counsel won a ruling that same-sex couples are entitled to all of the benefits and protections of civil marriage in the case of Baker v. State of Vermont. This ruling prompted the Vermont legislature to enact the nation's first "civil union" law for same-sex couples. She was lead counsel in Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health, which resulted in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court declaring that prohibiting civil marriage for same-sex couples is unconstitutional.

She is a graduate of Hamilton College and Northeastern University School of Law. She serves on the Family Law Steering Committee of the Boston Bar Association and is the North American co-chairwoman of the International Lesbian and Gay Law Association. In addition, she is a member of the Massachusetts Attorney General's Working Group on Racial Profiling.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in law?

For the same reasons many young people do: to help people and work for fairness and equality.

What did you do after law school?

I went to work for Mittel & Heffernan in Portland, Maine, now Mittel, Asen, Hunter & Cary. They were generous about letting me do pro bono work. I signed up with the Volunteer Lawyers Project right away and also started representing people with the Maine Civil Liberties Union. In addition to the work assigned to me, I brought in a certain amount of work because at the time I was one of just a few openly lesbian or gay lawyers. Many gay and lesbian people contacted me about their legal issues in everything from negotiating employment contracts to incorporating businesses to wills and relationship agreements.

In 1990 you left Maine and went to Massachusetts to work at Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, known as GLAD. What is GLAD?

I left Maine to work at GLAD in 1990 because Massachusetts had just become the second state in the country to enact a law making it unlawful to discriminate based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, public accommodations, and credit. GLAD, one of the oldest gay and lesbian organizations in the country, was hiring an attorney to enforce that law and take on other legal work related to sexual orientation issues.

As a general matter, GLAD focuses on litigation and public education in the six New England states, although we sometimes do legal and policy work beyond New England. Our goal is to use litigation and education to achieve equal justice under law for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, as well as those living with hiv/aids.

What is GLAD's history?

We were founded in 1978 by Attorney John Ward to stop harassment of gay people in Boston by the police and Suffolk County (Boston area) district attorney. GLAD quickly established broader parameters and has been involved in every legal facet of the struggle to achieve equal justice under law without regard to sexual orientation or HIV status. Some of our early cases involved issues that now seem mundane...

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