Read my story

Mary Bonauto ’87 has been called the Thurgood Marshall of the gay rights movement.

As Civil Rights Project Director at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) in Boston, Mary's tireless advocacy and powerful arguments before the Supreme Court, led — in large measure — to the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States of America in June of 2015. 

“No gay person in this country would be married without Mary Bonauto,” Roberta Kaplan told The New York Times just prior to arguing a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act before the US Supreme Court in March 2013.

At GLAD, Mary has spent nearly two decades developing a careful strategy to advance marriage equality. With attorneys Beth Robinson and Susan Murray, she waged the legal effort in Vermont to secure marriage, which led to the nation’s first civil unions law in 2000, won the 2003 case that made Massachusetts the first state to allow same-sex couples to marry, co-counseled the legal team that convinced the Connecticut Supreme Court that civil unions did not meet the constitutional promise of equality, defended marriage at the ballot in Maine in 2009 and 2012, and in 2012 convinced a federal appeals court that the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal marital benefits to married gay couples, is unconstitutional.  

“I find my work fulfilling,” says Mary, who has been called the Thurgood Marshall of the gay rights movement. “The mission of ‘equal justice under law’ is very compelling. It speaks to all of us, no matter what our circumstances are in life.”

Co-op 1

Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General, Boston

Mary worked alongside attorneys in the Public Protection Bureau.

Co-op 2

Greater Boston Legal Services, Divorce Unit, Boston


  • Corporations
  • Tax Law
  • Immigration Law
  • Poverty Law
  • Women and the Law

Co-op 3

Julian & Olsen, Madison, Wisconsin

Co-op 4

Sugarman & Sugarman, Boston

After graduation

Mittel & Heffernan, Portland, Maine

Career Highlights

MacArthur “Genius”

The recipient of a 2014 MacArthur (“Genius”) Fellowship, Mary is a civil rights lawyer whose powerful arguments and long-term legal strategies have led to historic strides in the effort to achieve marriage equality for same-sex couples across the United States.


Civil Rights Project Director, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Boston; MacArthur “Genius” 2014


A pioneer in using the law to achieve fairness and equality.