Power 2005: The Straight Scoop

“BOSTON MARRIAGE,” a term once reserved for 19th-century female roommates (“Are they or aren’t they?” was hardly a proper Victorian query), came out of the closet a year ago this month. That’s when same-sex couples lined up at city halls from Provincetown to Pittsfield to reap the matrimonial benefits of the historic Goodridge v. the Department of Public Health decision allowing them to legally unite.

[sidebar]The ruling by the state Supreme Judicial Court sent respective waves of joy and indignation across the country. It also raised the profiles of some increasingly powerful members of the gay and lesbian community ― most notably lawyer Mary Bonauto, who represented the Goodridge plaintiffs. Then, in a widely overlooked but wildly successful operation in November, gays devoted considerable cash and labor to the election of sympathetic state legislative candidates who will determine the fate of a constitutional amendment that would reverse the right to same-sex marriage and replace it with a system of civil unions. The Democrats backed by powerful gays not only beat back a well-financed challenge by Republican candidates pushed by Governor Mitt Romney (who opposes same-sex marriage and decried the state Supreme Judicial Court decision); they actually gained three seats in the House and Senate over the Republicans. Gays 2, Romney 0.

Of course, to so radically alter a state’s legal landscape is to be powerful. But assuming that the only gay power players in town are the people leading the push for same-sex marriage is like assuming Elton John is the only gay man composing for Broadway. The gay community’s influence here reaches far and wide, so we have, too, setting out to introduce you to some of the openly gay (we’re not outing anybody) people wielding influence in every sphere.

You already know some of our listees. Number 30, for instance, has been visiting your living room every night for years. Some, including number 26, have been included for the powerful role they play within, or on behalf of, the gay and lesbian community ― and at least one (number 21) in spite of the effort he puts into distancing himself from it.

1. Jarrett Barrios

State Senator
The first openly gay Hispanic elected to any state Senate in the country, Barrios is pushing bills protecting cell-phone users, potential victims of gang intimidation, and everyone in between. And enjoying his first year of marriage (see number 23). And raising two children. And considering a run for attorney general.

2. Mitchell Adams
Executive Director, Massachusetts Technology Collaborative
Innovation guru and former state revenue commissioner Adams brought acclaim to his Republican Harvard-college-buddy Weld’s administration, implementing new, award-winning tax-processing systems and cracking down on deadbeat dads. When Weld delivered the homily at Adams’s wedding in June to Kevin Smith, Massachusetts politicos from the left and right were spilling into the aisles.

3. Barney Frank
Frank became the first member of Congress to come out, which he did in a 1987 interview with the Globe. A dedicated Bush-whacker, after 24 years in office he is the ranking member of the Financial Services Committee and a devoted champion of liberal causes.

4. John Auerbach
Executive Director, Boston Public Health Commission
Under Auerbach, the oldest health department in the country created the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgendered Health Office, fought (and fights) an upswing in heroin abuse, and oversaw the statewide smoking ban. And speaking of society weddings, Auerbach married Atlantic senior editor Corby Kummer (number 32) in November.

5. Mary Bonauto
Civil Rights Project Director, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders
Lawyer for the Goodridge plaintiffs, the celebrated Bonauto gets much of the credit for making this the first state to legalize same-sex marriage one year ago this month. But that was far from Bonauto’s first groundbreaking foray in court. She served as co-counsel in, among others, the Vermont case that led to civil unions being allowed in that state.

6. Harry Collings
Executive Director and Secretary, Boston Redevelopment Authority
Tom Menino is just wild about Harry, who gets some of the credit for the mayor’s gay-friendly reputation. When the two met as BRA up-and-comers in the ’70s, Collings became one of the mayor’s first openly gay friends. Over the years, he’s encouraged Menino’s adoption of a gay-inclusive attitude ― which is not to mention the influence he wields at the city’s powerful planning agency. The BRA honcho moonlights as a promoter of Buzz nightclub.

7-10. Dennis Duffy; Chris Haynes; Dan Mathieu; Bryan Rafanelli
Duffy Design Group; CBH Communications; MAX Ultimate Food; Rafanelli Events
Fab Five, you can keep your gaudy SUV. Boston has its own queer eye guys, and we only need four. When their hour’s up, the whole city looks fabulous. Duffy designs interiors for Boston’s most exclusive pads, including Manny Ramirez’s, and just introduced Direction, a line of furniture sold by Webster & Company. He’s also on the board of the AIDS Action Committee. Haynes, head of Newbury Street’s CBH Communications, serves as press maven for some of the hottest restaurants in town, from No. 9 Park to Union Bar & Grill, where he arranged Marc Jacobs’s uberhip all-white costume bash. (Duran Duran crashed.) Mathieu wields a powerful wooden spoon as co-owner of both South End hangout Flux and MAX catering. When he’s not whipping up sweets and savories for such publicity-garnering bashes as last year’s Moondance on the Esplanade, he’s serving on the boards of the American Repertory Theatre and the ICA ― and sometimes teaming up with Rafanelli, whose wildly successful party operation had at least two events on last year’s Herald top-10 parties list.

11. Joseph Barri
Partner, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr
When the Massachusetts Bar Association named John Rogers legislator of the year even as the Norwood Democrat was cosponsoring a bill outlawing same-sex marriage, an angry Barri led a boycott of the bar association’s annual dinner, and almost every large law firm backed him up. Instead of sitting over dinner inside listening to Rogers being honored, several hundred lawyers marched in protest outside. (Rogers later withdrew his support from the bill.) Barri heads up Wilmer Cutler’s pro-bono work for the AIDS Action Committee and is the founder of the Partners Group of gay and lesbian law partners and executives.

12. Dr. Stephen Boswell
Executive Director, Fenway Community Health
A nationally recognized HIV/AIDS expert, Boswell heads Fenway Community Health, the largest provider of HIV services in New England. He’s also affiliated with Harvard, is on staff at Beth Israel Deaconess, and served on Bill Clinton’s Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.

13. Mary Breslauer
Democratic Consultant
Longtime political scenester Breslauer led Tom Reilly’s 1998 charge for attorney general and was an original host of WFNX’s gay-focused One In Ten radio program. Last year, she was a major lobbying force for same-sex marriage and advised the Kerry campaign on gay and lesbian issues. She’s also on the board of the Human Rights Campaign.

14-15. Gary Daffin and Arline Isaacson
Cochairs, Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus
The caucus today led by Daffin and Isaacson has been fighting for gay and lesbian rights for more than 30 years, helping win passage of the country’s second gay and lesbian civil rights law in the ’80s and a state domestic partnership law in the ’90s. Isaacson is a media go-to girl on same-sex marriage while Daffin, who also cofounded the Black Men’s Health Alliance, is a member of what must be one of the world’s least-populous groups: He’s a self-described “black Catholic homosexual from Alabama.”

16. Elyse Cherry
President, Boston Community Venture Fund
Cherry is on the board of the civil rights group MassEquality.org, raises money for breast cancer research, and packs a socially conscious punch as head of her multimillion-dollar venture fund, which invests in companies that do good while making money.

17. Dan Grabauskas
Likely next General Manager, MBTA
The first openly gay member of the Romney administration, Grabauskas is the former state secretary of transportation who’s now a frontrunner for the top job at the T.

18-19. David Collins and Michael Williams
Cofounders, Scout
Scout doesn’t ring a bell? How about its most popular creation, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy? The Emmy-winning tszuj-fest has spawned British and Australian spinoffs and Queer Eye for the Straight Girl. The West Roxbury couple also produced Errol Morris’s The Fog of War, for which Williams won an Academy Award last year. Carson Kressley helped him pick out his Oscar duds. Can Jamie Foxx say that?

20. Peter Gomes
Pusey Minister and Plummer Professor of Christian Morals, Harvard University
A black, gay, Pilgrim-obsessed, Republican best-selling author, scholar, minister, and Plymouth native, Gomes was raised by a Cape Verdean cranberry bog worker and a Beacon Hill member of the New England Conservatory. He took part in the inaugural activities of presidents Reagan and Bush Senior and sits on boards all over town, including those at Roxbury Latin and the Museum of Fine Arts.

21. Arthur Finkelstein
Republican Strategist
North Shore resident Finkelstein is a campaign legend, known for his aggressive tactics and the liberal use of the word “liberal” employed as a pejorative. He’s also notoriously low-profile. When this magazine outed him in 1996, he was taken to task by media outlets and pundits for the perceived clash between his personal morality and his clients, including such social conservatives as North Carolina’s Jesse Helms. The Machiavellian mastermind reportedly has an anti-Hillary website in the works, www.StopHerNow.com.

22. Rebecca Haag
Executive Director, AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts
Haag made a name for herself in the corporate world, including as a vice president at Burlington’s high-tech Wheelhouse Corporation, then left it two years ago to lead AIDS Action, which annually helps 2,500 people with AIDS. She and partner Mary Breslauer (number 13) moonlighted last year as models in an ad for the Brookline boutique the Studio, co-owned by Theo Epstein’s mom, Ilene.

23. Doug Hattaway
Democratic Strategist; CEO, Hattaway Communications
Hattaway’s political history is all over the map: He popped up as Al Gore’s spokesman when Gore ran for president, went intercontinental during Tony Blair’s 2001 reelection campaign, stuck close to home to help plan last year’s Democratic convention, and surfaces in news stories about partner Barrios (number 1), who surely benefits from his seasoned advice.

24. Nancy Shilepsky
Partner, Perkins Smith & Cohen
The National Law Journal calls Shilepsky, treasurer of the Boston Bar Association, one of the most influential lawyers in the state, and Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly named a case she worked on involving alleged discrimination at Stonehill College one of the ten most important decisions of last year.

25. Dr. Valerie Fein-Zachary
Cochair, Freedom to Marry Coalition
A familiar face in the gay and lesbian activist community, Fein-Zachary helped found the Lesbian Health Fund and has ramped up the Freedom to Marry Coalition, which played a key role in the same-sex marriage debate and has grown from a few hundred members to 10,000 during her time there.

26. Sue Hyde
New England Field Manager, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Hyde came to Boston to edit the now-defunct Gay Community News, then joined the Gay and Lesbian Defense Committee and worked to overturn a ban on gays becoming foster parents. When she became part of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, she fought against national sodomy laws. Hyde is also a cofounder of the Cambridge Lavender Alliance, a gay and lesbian political group.

27. Vincent McCarthy
Counsel, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr
“Vin” McCarthy, who retired from a senior partnership at Wilmer Cutler in 2003, is a philanthropic lion. He founded the Human Rights Campaign’s New England branch and the Massachusetts Lesbian and Gay Bar Association, served on the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Gay and Lesbian Youth, and has championed the Pine Street Inn for more than a quarter of a century.

28. Sue O’Connell
Copublisher, Bay Windows/South End News; Cohost, One In Ten
O’Connell worked at KISS-108, WBOS, and the Phoenix before landing at Bay Windows/South End News, which she and business partner Jeff Coakley bought two years ago and which won a combined six New England Press Association awards last year. One of the first women on the board of the National Gay Newspaper Guild, O’Connell spends her Sunday nights cohosting WFNX’s gay-issues program, One In Ten.

29. Nicholas Martin
Artistic Director, Huntington Theatre Company
Martin has won rave reviews since he came to the Huntington four years ago, while his productions have gone on to New York to win no fewer than three Tony nominations.

30. Randy Price
News Anchor, WHDH-TV, Channel 7
So popular is Price that Channel 7 ― famous for tossing the talent ― has given him an unprecedented contract extension to 2008.

31. Marty Rouse
Campaign Director, MassEquality.org
Devoted to upholding same-sex marriage, MassEquality.org has exploded since Rouse arrived soon after the Goodridge ruling. The former Clinton operative has since built the group from a casual collaboration of like-minded organizations into a political force.

32. Corby Kummer
Senior Editor, the Atlantic; Restaurant Critic, Boston magazine
Winner of three James Beard awards and author of The Joy of Coffee and The Pleasures of Slow Food, Kummer has an audience of half a million for his reviews of Boston restaurants in this magazine. He also sits on the board of Community Servings, a food delivery service for people with AIDS.

33. Bernard Toale
Bernard Toale Gallery
Part of Boston’s gallery elite, Toale ventured into the South End when trendy SoWa was still SoWhat? He and partner Joe Zina, now executive director of the Coolidge Corner Theatre, got their professional start cofounding Rugg Road Paper Company.

34. Gretchen Van Ness
Past president of the Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts, Van Ness has been involved in several high-profile cases involving gay and lesbian rights. At the moment, she’s defending Provincetown from a lawsuit that seeks to prevent the town from letting out-of-state same-sex couples marry.

35. Daniel Salera
Former Director of Community Relations and Sponsorships, FleetBoston Financial
Salera, like Fleet, has left the stage, but the effect of his good works will last at least as long as it takes us to get used to “TD Banknorth Garden” ― the Fleet (now Bank of America) Celebrity Series, for example.

Photo by Charles Gauthier