Mary Bonauto




Mary Bonauto is the Civil Rights Project Director at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD). In 2015, she successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges, which established the freedom to marry for same-sex couples nationwide. Mary’s litigation and policy work encompasses local, state, regional and national efforts focused on securing freedom and opportunities for all people without regard to sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV status, and as these identities intersect with racial and economic disparities. Mary began her legal career in 1987 at Portland’s Mittel & Heffernan (now Mittel Asen), joining GLAD in 1990.  Her early Maine work included supporting University of Maine faculty and staff in achieving the first state recognition of domestic partnerships (1996), and successfully representing the City of Portland when its DP ordinance was challenged (Pulsifer et al v. City of Portland2004).  She worked for the successful addition of sexual orientation and gender identity to Maine’s antidiscrimination law in 2005.   



Mary served on the 2013-2015 Maine Parentage Act working group, which updated the law to provide protection and security to parents and children, including in LGBTQ families. She helped secure Law Court victories allowing non-marital same-sex couples to serve as co-guardians (2003)recognizing de facto parenthood (2004), and securing the right to adopt jointly (2007), a judgment that is respected nationwide.  She has litigated to ensure respect for gestational carrier agreements (2012) and clarify the retroactive recognition of national marriage equality to divorcing couples (2015). 


Mary has represented youth at Long Creek, and serves on the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Task Force, the Chief Justice’s Child Welfare Task Force, and a Department of Education Task Force on implementation of the anti-bullying law. With Jodi Nofsinger and the Maine Human Rights Commission, GLAD won a groundbreaking 2014 ruling that transgender students must be respected for who they are at school, and in 2019 helped draft and pass Maine’s conversion therapy ban. 


Mary co-leads GLAD’s work to secure protections for LGBTQ people under federal sex discrimination laws in employment, housing, health care and more, including supporting cases at the Supreme Court, and to combat Executive Orders and agency regulations that cause harm and subvert the government’s obligation to treat all persons equallyWith colleagues from GLAD and NCLR, Mary is co-counsel in Doe v. Trump (DC) and Stockman v. Trump (CA) challenging the transgender military ban.   


Prior to Obergefell, Mary was lead counsel in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health (2003) which made Massachusetts the first state where same-sex couples could wed, and co-counsel in Kerrigan v. Connecticut DPH (2008), which secured marriage in a second state. She was a leader in the 2009 effort to pass marriage legislatively in Maine, and an executive committee member on the 2009 and 2012 ballot campaigns.  


Mary led GLAD’s challenges to the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Gill v. OPM and Pedersen v. OPMand coordinated amici briefs for U.S. v. Windsor at the Supreme Court (2013). With DOMA overturned, she worked with the U.S. Attorney General’s Office to implement the ruling and provide overdue protections to married couples. She continues to defend marriage equality against attempts at state and federal levels to undermine it.   


Mary is a MacArthur Fellow, Shikes Fellow in Civil Liberties and Civil Rights at Harvard Law School, and serves on the Gill Foundation Board. 

Muskie Fund for Legal Services | P.O. Box 547, Portland, Maine 04112 | (207) 400-3279