Mary Bonauto of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) on Wednesday was named one of the 2014 recipients of MacArthur Foundation “genius grants,” which acknowledges the nation's most talented and accomplished artists, scholars and professionals.

“This award is a testament to the justice-seeking work of innumerable people all across the nation,” Bonauto said in a statement. “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. So many have given so much to bring us to this point – whether our courageous plaintiffs or people whose names history may never know – and every bit of it has mattered. This honor is an investment in a better future for all.”

Bonauto is widely recognized as an architect of the marriage equality movement, working on lawsuits that led to the nation's first civil union law in Vermont and the nation's first marriage equality law in Massachusetts.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, said he was thrilled to see his colleague recognized with such a prestigious honor.

“Mary Bonauto is a giant in the campaign to win the freedom to marry, universally acclaimed for winning momentous cases across the range of lesbian and gay civil rights concerns, for spearheading the litigation strategy that effectively brought down the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, and for exceptionally high standards as a practitioner and partner,” Wolfson said in a statement. “And Mary’s brilliance and accomplishments are not confined to the courtroom; she has been a key shaper of the message and strategies that have helped us build political and public support alongside the legal progress. Mary and I have worked hand in glove for (gasp!) 25 years now, strategizing together and assisting and playing off each other in all aspects of the work, and I am thrilled to see her duly recognized today as the American hero she has always been.”

Each of the 21 fellows announced Wednesday will receive $625,000 over the next five years to spend as they like from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.