In The News

Attorneys in Landmark Marriage Equality Case Speak at Ropes & Gray Pride Month Event

Practices: Appellate & Supreme Court

Appellate & Supreme Court partner Douglas Hallward-Driemeier (Washington, D.C.) and Mary Bonauto, civil rights project director at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, appeared at Ropes & Gray’s annual Pride Month event to discuss their April 28 oral arguments in the landmark marriage equality case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Ms. Bonauto and Mr. Hallward-Driemeier represented the plaintiffs in the combined cases Obergefell v. Hodges and Tanco v. Haslam. Ms. Bonauto argued that the 14th Amendment requires each state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex, while Mr. Hallward-Driemeier argued that the 14th Amendment requires each state to recognize a marriage that was lawfully licensed and performed in another state. A decision in the combined cases is expected by the end of June.

Mr. Hallward-Driemeier and Ms. Bonauto spoke on June 10 at Ropes & Gray’s Boston office; the event was broadcast live to all of the firm’s U.S. offices. Jeffrey Webb (Boston), leader of Ropes & Gray’s labor & employment practice group, moderated the discussion.

Ms. Bonauto outlined her involvement as a leader in the marriage equality movement over three decades, noting that in the early 1990s she was perceived as a radical activist, as nationwide attitudes toward marriage equality had yet to evolve. Her long fight on behalf of marriage equality led to her characterization as the “Thurgood Marshall” of gay marriage rights in a 2013 New York Times article, a point that was emphasized at the June 10 event, in part because of Ms. Bonauto’s central role in Goodridge v. Massachusetts Dept. of Public Health, a landmark state appellate court case that led to the first state appellate court decision enabling gay couples to marry.

Speaking specifically to Obergefell and Tanco, Mr. Hallward-Driemeier and Ms. Bonauto described their preparation leading up to the April 28 oral arguments. Mr. Hallward-Driemeier explained that soon after the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ban on same-sex marriage in four states in November 2014, he received a call from a contact at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Ropes & Gray’s co-counsel in Tanco, asking whether he would like to become involved in the U.S. Supreme Court case. He noted that Ropes & Gray’s litigation team prepared and filed its brief with the Supreme Court within one week to ensure the case would be heard before the end of the Supreme Court term.

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