Lisa M. Polyak, MSE, MHS

Lisa M. Polyak

Lisa and her partner Gita Deane were the lead plaintiffs in the ACLU-directed litigation Deane and Polyak v. Conaway, to achieve marriage equality for same-sex couples in Maryland.  The litigation was filed in July 2004, and concluded in September 2007 when the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled 4-3 that there was no constitutional basis for extending civil marriage rights to same-sex couples in Maryland.

In addition to the litigation, Polyak served in a number of capacities in the fight to achieve legal equality for LGBT citizens.  She served on the Board of Directors at Equality Mary from 2008-2012, and chaired the Board of Directors during their successful effort to pass a marriage equality bill in the Maryland legislature.  In May 2009, she co-authored The Dallas Principles – a set of guidelines for the LGBT community in the pursuit of full legal equality at the Federal level.  She authored and published the first-ever school climate survey of the Maryland Independent School community in February 2000, and facilitated the addition of sexual orientation to the non-discrimination statement of the Gilman School in 2001.  Since 1998, she has been an online Moderator for Families With Pride, a Baltimore-area support group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender parents and their children.   

Polyak has been profiled in the New York Times, Washington Post, National Public Radio, Baltimore Sun, Washington Blade and numerous local newspapers, TV and radio stations.  She has been invited to speak at multiple venues throughout Maryland including universities (Johns Hopkins University, Loyola College, University of Maryland, Goucher College, Towson University), religious and civic organizations, and has testified before the Maryland General Assembly.  Deane and Polyak were awarded the 13th Rosalyn B. Bell Award by the Women’s Law Center of Maryland in October 2005; the James R. Douglass Award by the U.S. Department of Justice Pride in June 2006; the James Baldwin Civil Rights medal in 2011;  and Public Citizens of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers in 2013.  The story of their relationship and struggle for marriage equality is featured in the video Heart of the Matter: Maryland’s Same-Sex Couples Seek Justice for their Families.

Professionally, Polyak is a Supervisory Environmental Engineer with the Army Public Health Center, where she manages a group of engineers and scientists who perform a wide range of environmental and occupational health evaluations for the Army and the Department of Defense.

In 2016, Lisa and Gita will celebrate their 35th anniversary.  They are the proud parents of two daughters and a cat, Moe.