GLAD’s Mary Bonauto receives MacArthur Foundation ‘genius grant’

Mary Bonauto

Mary Bonauto

CHICAGO — Mary L. Bonauto, the Civil Rights Project Director for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), has been awarded a 2014 MacArthur Fellowship, sometimes referred to as a “genius grant.”

Mary Bonauto

Mary Bonauto

The Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced on Wednesday this year’s recipients of the grants that have been awarded since 1981. Recipients will each receive $625,000 over the next five years.

The Fellowships are awarded annually to “talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.”

Bonauto is widely known for litigating two cases challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), producing the first federal court rulings that DOMA is unconstitutional, and laying the groundwork for last year’s U.S. Supreme Court victory in United States v. Windsor, in which Section 3 of DOMA was struck down by the Court.

She started her work at GLAD in 1990, and has litigated widely in state and federal courts on issues of employment discrimination, free speech, civil rights, and family law.

Bonauto is nationally recognized as an architect of the marriage equality movement, starting with her role in the 1999 case Baker v. State of Vermont, which led to the nation’s first civil union law. She recently joined the legal team in the Utah case Kitchen v. Herbert, which is one of the marriage equality cases that could be heard by the Supreme Court.

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“We are thrilled for Mary and for the LGBT movement,” said Gary Buseck, GLAD’s interim executive director and longtime legal director.

“Mary is without a doubt one of the most visionary and hardworking people in our movement, and at the same time one of the most genuinely modest. Not only is this award well-deserved recognition for Mary, but it’s an opportunity for us to highlight the movement for LGBT equality and all that remains to be done,” said Buseck.

Bonauto called the award “a testament to the justice-seeking work of innumerable people all across the nation.”

“I deeply appreciate the Foundation’s vote of confidence in our movement’s work as we strive to remove barriers to LGBT people’s full participation in society,” she said.

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