Meet the Country’s First Openly Gay Attorney General
Badass Women celebrates women who show up, speak up, and get things done.
This article was originally published on Oct. 9, 2018.
If you mess with Maura Healey, she can and will turn up the heat. Since her days as a 5’4” professional basketball point guard to her current gig as Massachusetts Attorney General, she’s not afraid to ruffle feathers to stand up for her team. “Basketball taught me how to be tough and taught me how to compete,” she says.
Healey was the underdog in 2014 when the first-time candidate decided to run for Attorney General. Insiders thought she didn't have enough clout to earn the votes she needed. Others thought she didn't stand a chance against the other well-funded Democratic primary opponent and the Republican candidate. But AG Healey proved her power by running a grassroots campaign built on defending consumers, the environment, and healthcare.
After knocking on countless doors to talk to voters directly, she won the election and took office in 2015 as Attorney General, or the “People’s Lawyer” as she calls it. Her advice for any women who want to follow in her footsteps? Get out there and run for office. “Don’t wait to be asked to run, believe in yourself and run,” she says. “And know that you have something really meaningful to contribute and that we need you.”
Since then, Healey has kept her promise to defend, earning national attention since 2017 for filing more than two dozen lawsuits against the Trump administration over issues including the Muslim ban, the loosening of EPA protections, and the planned rescindment of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA).
Her motivation to keep fighting for what she believes in — even when that means suing the federal government — hinges on what she learned as a basketball player: “Success isn’t just about ability — it’s about hard work, grit, and resilience,” she tells InStyle. “If someone is telling you what you can’t do or shouldn’t do, you probably need to tell them to get out of your way.”
Point of pride: After her basketball career, Healey worked as a private practice lawyer and then held several positions in the Attorney General's office before running for Attorney General herself. As the "People's Lawyer," she saw a bigger opportunity to make an impact. One mega, mega win? Her work on same-sex marriage. “I had the chance to bring the country’s first successful lawsuit challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which discriminated against same-sex couples,” Healey, who is the first openly gay Attorney General in the country, explains. “We took that case up to the Supreme Court and won, and it helped change the landscape for equality across the country and for same sex-couples, who finally could have all of the benefits and protections of marriage.”
Trumping Trump: "No one’s above the law in this country, not even the president,” says Healey, who's not afraid to question authority. The AG has legally challenged the administration more than two dozen times since 2017. “As Attorney General, if I won’t stand up for the Constitution and against the abuse of power, then who will? My message to President Trump when I spoke at the Women’s March was, ‘We’ll see you in court,’ if you do things that are illegal and unconstitutional. Unfortunately, he’s done that, but we’ve taken him to court and won.”
Staying motivated: How does she keep it together? “Working out and watching HGTV helps,” she says. “I draw inspiration from the people my office helps — victims of gun violence, victims of discrimination, people struggling with addiction, victims of human trafficking, Dreamers who had the courage to come out of the shadows. They are the ones with real courage, and my job is to fight for them.”
Slam dunk: Healey knows a thing or two about playing for a team. She says her first career as a point guard for a professional women’s basketball team in Austria taught her that, “truly strong women make each other better when they work as a team, when they’re not afraid to fail, when the response to an opponent or a bad call by the ref is to just fight back harder.”
Underdog obstacles: “When I ran for Attorney General, a lot of people told me I was making a huge mistake," Healey says. Some even told her to drop out and hope to get hired by a male opponent. "It turns out that’s a message given to just about every woman who runs for office." Instead, she focused on the issues that meant the most to her. "We set up a campaign around a simple message: the Attorney General needs to give a voice to the vulnerable and fight for people’s rights," Healey says. "We knocked on doors, traveled the state, had countless conversations in living rooms, and worked as hard as we could. And on election day, that campaign won all but five of the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts.”
Best advice: “When I decided to run for office, I was a total underdog and didn’t know if I’d win. But I knew it was important to take a chance to do something I believed in," Healey says. "Find yourself and your passion and don’t be afraid to take risks. You will be stronger because of it."