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ABA Recognizes LGBT Lawyers with Stonewall Awards
The American Bar Association has chosen Matt Nosanchuk, associate general counsel at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, as one of three lawyers to receive its inaugural Stonewall Award, recognizing LGBT advancement in the legal profession.
The award honors lawyers who have advanced lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals in the legal profession and championed LGBT legal causes.
Besides Nosanchuk, the other recipients are Mary Bonauto, a Boston civil rights project director for the New England-wide Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders; and Mia Yamamoto, a criminal defense attorney and private practitioner in the Los Angeles area who has often been honored for her LGBT work.
The pace of change is nothing short of breathtaking, Nosanchuk told CorpCounsel.com on Thursday. I am honored and humbled to have had a front-row seat in this historic change.
Nosanchuk is being honored for his lifetime of work on behalf of LBGT issues, from early work for the American Civil Liberties Union in Illinois to later efforts while working in the U.S. Department of Justice civil rights division.
He worked at DOJ both under Attorney General Janet Reno in the 1990s and again under AG Eric Holder in 2009. While at DOJ, he was known as the departments Gay Czar. And he often spoke on behalf of the administrations efforts to advance LBGT equality [PDF].
Notably, Nosanchuk helped implement the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
He now serves in Homeland Securitys legal division, which is responsible for the departments efforts in litigation, civil rights and civil liberties, privacy, and legislation.
Bonauto has an equally impressive record. The ABA said she worked on nearly every facet of the legal movement for equality under law for LGBT individuals. She is best known for her work on marriage law and the Defense of Marriage Act, and was lead counsel on the 2003 landmark case Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health, which legalized same-sex marriages in Massachusetts.
She also worked on a team that won the right to legalize civil unions in Vermont, according to a Boston Globe profile from 2011.
And she is the co-lead counsel on two cases challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that the Obama administration has said is unconstitutional.
The oft-honored defense attorney Mia Yamamoto was born Michael Yamamoto in the Poston internment camp for Japanese-Americans in Arizona in 1943, according to a story in the Rafu Shimpo, the Los Angeles Japanese Daily News.
The news site said Yamamoto completed her transition from male to female in 2003 and continues to advocate for transgender rights while sharing her personal story as an out-transgender woman of Japanese American ancestry.
This year she was honored by the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission for her advocacy on behalf of the LGBT community. She also received the Harvey Milk Legacy Award from Christopher Street West/LA Pride 2012.
The new award, created by the ABAs Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, is named after the New York City police raid and riot at the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969. The raidconsidered the first time that gays fought back when police tried to arrest themwas a turning point in the gay rights movement.
Formed by the ABA in 2007, the Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity works to secure for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons equal participation in the ABA, the legal profession, and the U.S. justice system.
Nosanchuk said he was aware that many pioneers paved the way for the pro-gay changes that have occurred in recent years, people who sacrificed so much and so courageously stepped forward.
He also acknowledged the leadership at the highest level of government, all the way down to community organizations and individuals throughout the nation who called for and worked for equality.
The Stonewall Awards will be presented during a ceremony at the ABA midyear meeting February 9 in Dallas.
See also: "Department of Defense GC Keynotes Pentagon LGBT Pride Event," CorpCounsel, June 2012.