Edith Windsor, Marriage Equality Activist and LGBT Rights Pioneer, Dies at 88

Katrina Barker
September 13, 2017

"I am today an out lesbian who just sued the United States of America, which is kind of overwhelming for me", Windsor said at the time.

For Windsor, who married her first wife in Canada in 2007, it all started over a tax return.

Edie Windsor, whose name became synonymous with marriage equality after her landmark legal challenge of the Defense of Marriage Act, died Tuesday in Manhattan at the age of 88. After navigating the NY court system for years, her case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013, culminating in a 5-4 decision declaring that the federal Defense of Marriage Act-the legislation blocking Ms. Windsor's tax claim-was unconstitutional. They waited 40 years before they got married in Canada.

On March 28, 2013, Windsor gave a speech on the steps of the Supreme Court, just after oral arguments in the case concluded.

She had been affected by the Defense of Marriage Act which had banned same-sex couples from being recognised as "spouses" federally.

When Windsor's lifelong partner died in 2009, the IRS billed her for more than $300,000 in estate taxes she would not have owed had the government recognized their marriage. They bought a home in the Town of Southampton, where Ms. Windsor resided with her second-wife, Ms. Karen-Windsor, until her death, in 1968.

This led to a wider 2015 ruling which legalised same-sex marriage in all 50 states. "It really was. Something like three weeks before Thea died she said: 'Jesus we're still in love, aren't we'".

Windsor, born to an immigrant Jewish family from Philadelphia in 1929, was an unlikely civil rights icon; glamorous, wealthy and successful. She was 88 years old. While everyone else went out dancing, she waited up all night for Spyer to arrive-she finally showed up the next afternoon. Windsor, an enthusiastic supporter of Clinton in her bid for the White House, said she was "so honored" the candidate chose her as a role model. "I also know that her memory will be a blessing not only to every LGBT person on this planet, but to all who believe in the concept of b'tzelem elohim, or equal dignity for all". The couple married on 26 September 2016.

What began as a fight for a simple tax refund quickly became a testament to how far the nation had come in terms of support for same-sex marriage. Windsor requested that, instead of flowers, donations in her memory be made to The NYC LGBT Center, Callen-Lorde, Hetrick-Martin Institute, and SAGE. "She touched countless lives, and we at GLAAD are deeply saddened by her passing, but her kindness, compassion, and legacy will endure". The US supreme court dealt a final blow for marriage equality in 2015.

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