The New York Times profiled Mary Bonauto, a lawyer and mother of two from Maine, whom it credits as the woman “almost single-handedly responsible for the same-sex marriage cases now pending before the Supreme Court.”
“No gay person in this country would be married without Mary Bonauto,” said Roberta Kaplan, who argued against the Defense of Marriage Act last Wednesday.
Bonauto had argued and won against DOMA in the federal appeals court in Boston, which Justice Elena Kagan had discussed when she was President Obama’s solicitor general. The court therefore chose Kaplan’s case instead so that Kagan would not have to recuse herself.
The top civil rights lawyer for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, Bonauto was instrumental in bringing civil unions to Vermont and marriage equality to Massachusetts and Connecticut. According to the Times, she can still recite the first paragraph from the Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling, including the declaration that the Massachusetts Constitution “forbids the creation of second-class citizens.”
“She’s our Thurgood Marshall,” former Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank said of Bonauto, referring to the lawyer and Supreme Court Justice who made history by arguing and winning Brown v. The Board of Education, effectively ending racial segregation in the U.S.
But raising her twin 11-year-old daughters with her wife, Professor Jennifer Wriggins of the University of Maine’s law school, the “serious and unassuming” Bonauto would most likely demur at the comparison.
“That’s not how we experience our lives,” she said. Bonauto and her family can at least experience the fruits of her efforts living in Maine, where voters approved same-sex marriage last year — reversing a 2009 decision she had worked to pass.