Three Maine women were recognized Wednesday in Portland for promoting and inspiring social changes for both women and girls.

More than 600 people attended The Maine Women’s Fund fourth annual Leadership Luncheon and awards ceremony at the Holiday Inn by the Bay.

Receiving the awards were Mary Bonauto, a Portland lawyer who is regarded as one of the country’s leading gay rights activists; Fatuma Hussein of Lewiston, the founder and director of Lewiston’s United Somali Women of Maine organization; and Lincoln Academy graduate Chloe Maxmin of Nobleboro, who will be a senior at Harvard College this fall.

“All three women are examples of tremendous tenacity, integrity and courage,” said Sarah Ruef-Lindquist, chief executive officer of the Maine Women’s Fund.

Bonauto received the Tribute to Women Industry Award, which recognizes a woman who is a leader in her field and who has achieved significant accomplishments.

Bonauto served as lead counsel in the effort to legalize same-sex marriage in Massachusetts – the first same-sex marriage in that state took place in May 2004 – and she led the challenge that brought down DOMA, the federal Defense of Marriage Act. She has also served as the civil rights project director at the Gay and Lesbian Advocates Defenders office (GLAD) in Boston for two decades.

Roberta Kaplan, the lawyer who argued for the repeal of DOMA before the U.S. Supreme Court, told The New York Times in 2013 that “No gay person in this country would be married without Mary Bonauto.”

“The outbreak of joy, total joy, changed the discussion forever,” Bonauto said Wednesday, referring to the groundbreaking same-sex marriages that took place 10 years ago in Massachusetts.

Hussein received the Sarah Orne Jewett Award, which is given to a Maine woman who exhibits the attributes of the women in Jewett’s works of fiction: true grit, independence, courage, humor and discipline.

Hussein came to the United States at the age of 12 after living in a Kenyan refugee camp during the Somali civil war. She relocated to Maine in 2001 where she set out to help Somali refugees adapt to their new life by providing translation, transportation and health-care assistance.

She founded United Somali Women of Maine in 2002.

The Samantha Smith Award was given to Maxmin. The award recognizes a young woman who works to promote social change in her school or community, inspires girls to become active in supporting lasting changes, and makes a difference in the community.

Maxmin in 2011 received the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes which is awarded to the top 10 youth activists in the nation.

She was named a Green Hero by Rolling Stone magazine for her climate activism and she has led an effort to convince Harvard to divest in fossil fuels.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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