Portland resident and civil rights attorney Mary Bonauto has been named one of the 50 most powerful women in Boston by Boston Magazine.

A longtime gay rights activist, Bonauto was chosen for her work as civil rights director at Boston-based nonprofit Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, said a media release.

Bonauto is known for heading a legal team that has repeatedly challenged the federal Defense of Marriage Act, parts of which prohibit same-sex couples from receiving the same protections and benefits available to heterosexual married couples, such as shared Social Security, disability and tax benefits.

Bonauto lives in Portland with her partner Jennifer Wriggins, a professor at the University of Maine School of Law. They have twin daughters. The couple wed in Massachusetts.

Bonauto grew up in Newburgh, N.Y., and graduated from Hamilton College and Northeastern University School of Law. She came to Portland in the late 1980s and worked briefly as an associate at Mittel Asen LLC before accepting the job with GLAD in Boston.

In 1999, Bonauto and two Vermont lawyers won a ruling that prompted the state Legislature to enact the nation’s first ”civil union” law for same-sex couples.

Bonauto then served as lead counsel in a landmark case in Massachusetts, Goodridge v. Department of Public Health. In 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court declared that it was unconstitutional to prohibit civil marriage for gay and lesbian couples. The first legal same-sex marriage ceremonies ever performed in the U.S. were conducted in Massachusetts in May 2004.


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