Contact: Rabiah Burks
San Francisco’s chief deputy attorney to receive prestigious Margaret Brent Award
WASHINGTON, D.C., Aug. 7, 2013 — Therese M. Stewart, the lead attorney for the city and county of San Francisco in California’s marriage equality cases, is one of five outstanding female attorneys to be honored with the 2013 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award.
Stewart will receive the award, given annually by the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession, on Aug. 11 at the Moscone Center West in San Francisco during the ABA’s Annual Meeting.
“The Margaret Brent Awards celebrate the extraordinary achievements of female lawyers who have significantly contributed to the advancement of women in the profession,” said Mary B. Cranston, chair of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession. “Our honorees’ accomplishments serve as an inspiration to women throughout the nation.”
Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, D-Hawaii, Sara Holtz, Gladys Kessler and Marygold Shire Melli will also receive the award. Previous honorees include U.S. Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“I am ecstatic to receive the Margaret Brent Award,” Stewart said. “I did not expect it, it came as a total surprise and it’s such a great honor.”
When Stewart left her partnership at Howard Rice Nemerovski Canady Falk & Rabkin PC to work for the city of San Francisco, she never thought she would be one of the lead attorneys in the fight for legal recognition of gay marriages.
“It kind of fell into my lap a little bit,” Stewart said. “The marriage-related work, I did not set about to do it because I didn’t think it would happen in my lifetime.”
Although it was illegal for same-sex couples to marry in California in 2004, Gavin Newsom, then the mayor of San Francisco, decided to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Stewart led the fight in the courts on the city’s behalf.
“I got thrust into the defense of that action, and from there turned it into affirmative cases,” Stewart said.
From 2004 to 2008, Stewart led a team of city attorneys, many of whom were women, through a string of cases that ultimately landed them in front of the California Supreme Court.
“I am very proud that our team is made up heavily of women within our office that worked on it,” Stewart said.
The California Supreme Court ultimately ruled in favor of the city of San Francisco, agreeing that the ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
However, a few months later, Stewart was dismayed and defiant when the California Supreme Court decision was overturned.
“The Prop 8 proponents put it on the ballot and took away our victory in the state Supreme Court,” Stewart said. “Don’t take something away from me because I am not going to let it go.”
The case was taken up this year by the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the California Supreme Court’s original decision. On June 28, the California Supreme Court issued an injunction to lift the ban on gay marriages.
“We got it back and that feels really good,” Stewart said.
More information about the Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Awards can be foundonline.
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