Look behind the incredible speed of same-sex marriage judicial victories, including Monday’s Supreme Court decision, and you’ll find federal employees.


Gay rights advocate Vin Testa waves a rainbow flag in front of the Supreme Court on June 26, 2013. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

They are not high-profile politicians or appointed officials. You won’t find them on the Sunday morning talk shows or in the national headlines. But they have been in the vanguard of the marriage equality movement even as they toil in their everyday, low-key jobs.

In fact, the first lawsuit against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prevented the federal government from recognizing same sex marriages, was filed in 2009 under the name of a postal worker in Massachusetts.

Fast forward to Monday.

With the Supreme Court’s decision to let stand lower court rulings that allow same-sex marriages, expect those unions to soon be permitted in most of America. The effort for marriage equality isn’t over, but victory is in sight.

Victory wasn’t certain when Nancy Gill, a business mail entry clerk at a post office in Brockton, began her fight. The 27-year U.S. Postal Service employee is the named plaintiff in Gill v. OPM, the lawsuit against the Office of Personnel Management, which denied employer-sponsored health insurance to her wife.

That was the “first concerted, multi-plaintiff legal challenge to Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act,” according to Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), which represented Gill and others.

Gill was optimistic even when many were doubtful, not to mention those who were, and remain, fiercely opposed. “I always knew, I always had a feeling that justice would prevail,” she said by phone Tuesday. “I cannot see how a group of intelligent people, whether they be Supreme Court justices or CEOs or newspaper delivery people … can say that there’s anything that harms anybody by respecting the rights of gay people to marry.”

This week’s decision follows last year’s Supreme Court ruling in U.S. v. Windsor that struck down a key section of DOMA. That decision led to the amazing string of lower court rulings allowing same-sex marriages. Windsor drew directly from Gill.

“The legal framework developed in that case was used in subsequent cases, including the Windsor case,” according to GLAD.

“I’m thrilled,” Gill said. “Absolutely thrilled.”

Read more in the Federal Diary online later today and in Wednesday’s print editions of The Washington Post.