Mary Bonauto '83 Is "Taking on National Role"

Mary Bonauto '83
Mary Bonauto '83

The Boston Globe featured gay rights activist Mary Bonauto '83 in an article about President Obama's decision to determine whether or not the Defense of Marriage Act was constitutional. The president's change in position on the Defense of Marriage Act and his administration's decision to look further into it has been labeled a pivotal moment in the gay rights crusade. The article, titled "Gay Marriage Legal Strategist Is Taking On National Role" (Feb. 28, 2011), discussed how this decision affected Bonauto, as well as praised her for her many accomplishments.

Bonauto was the lead counsel in the Massachusetts case, Goodbridge versus Department of Public Health, that made Massachusetts the first state to allow gay marriage. She also worked on a team that won the right to legalize civil unions in Vermont. She is the co-lead counsel on two cases challenging the Defense of Marriage Act. For more than two decades, Bonauto has been a fixture of the Massachusetts gay rights crusade. She has earned a reputation as the region's most influential gay rights lawyer because of the work she has done with the Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD). Now that her successes have expanded onto a national stage, she has also been labeled one of the most significant activists in the country.

The Defense of Marriage Act allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. It is up to the courts to make the final decision on whether the law is constitutional or not, but Obama's decision to evaluate it was still a milestone for Bonauto and other crusaders. Bonauto lives in Portland, Maine, with her partner of 23 years, Jennifer Wriggins, a law professor, and 9-year-old twin girls. Bonauto and Wriggins were married in Massachusetts in 2008. Obama’s decision affects Bonauto especially because the Defense of Marriage Act makes her marriage to Wriggins void in the state of Maine. Bonauto majored in comparative literature and minored in history at Hamilton. She received her juris doctor from Northeastern University in 1987.

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