Published: Fri, September 15, 2017
Culture | By Ray Hoffman

Edith Windsor, Gay Rights Pioneer, Dies at 88

Edith Windsor, Gay Rights Pioneer, Dies at 88

The couple entered a domestic partnership in 1993, then travelled to marry in Canada in 2002, after Spyer had a heart attack.

United States v. Windsor, the civil rights case, made it to the Supreme Court in 2013, when the apex court ruled that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act - which stated the legal designation of "spouse" only applies to marriages between a woman and a man - was unconstitutional, the New York Times reported.

The 1996 federal law known as DOMA made Windsor ineligible for the estate tax exemption a spouse would have received.

In one of its most significant LGBT-related rulings ever, the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2013 struck down DOMA.

"The five-Justice majority in Windsor (the so-called 'liberal block, ' plus Justice Kennedy, the author of the decision and the swing vote) are apparently ready to instantly indict persons of traditional values as moral outsiders". A year ago in an interview with the Washington Blade, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton identified Windsor as an LGBT person she sees as a role model.

The New York Times and the Associated Press confirmed Windsor's death with her wife and her attorney.

People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and defend constitutional values including free expression, religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and the right to meaningfully participate in our democracy. It's now considered the second most important Supreme Court case for LGBTI rights, following 2015's ruling legalizing marriage equality.

Love made Edith Windsor a married woman. And the ACLU, which ultimately joined Kaplan, was hesitant at first.

"Married is a magic word", Windsor said at a 2009 rally outside City Hall in Manhattan.

Spyer proposed with a diamond brooch, in order for the couple to keep their relationship a secret.

"When New Yorkers - especially young LGBTQ New Yorkers - saw Edie on the street, they'd run up to her, thank her, hug her, sometimes with tears of gratitude and tell their stories and detail how her story touched their lives", Quinn said in a statement. "It just seemed safer that way". She began dating her first wife, Thea Spyer, a pyschologist, in 1965, when they were living in Greenwich Village and often vacationed on the South Fork.

Ms Windsor was 81 when she brought a lawsuit (United States V. Windsor) which would end up being the turning point for LGBT rights in America. And she said, "Oh, it was nothing, it had no effect on me at all". RIP Edie Windsor. We will continue your work. "Thea looks at her ring every day, and thinks of herself as a member of a special species that can love and couple "until death do them part'".

Lesbian gay bisexual and transgender rights activist Edith “Edie” Windsor
Lesbian gay bisexual and transgender rights activist Edith “Edie” Windsor

Windsor was represented at that battle by Robert Kaplan, who indicated, to mourn his death, have been his lawyer was " great honor" of his life. In it, she explains exactly why marriage goes beyond a union on paper.

Windsor is survived by her wife, Judith Kasen-Windsor, who she married in 2016.

Former President Barack Obama, in a statement, marked her passing. "Her legacy will live on in history and be felt in the lives of our community for many years to come".

"Edie spoke up - not for special treatment, but for equal treatment", wrote Obama, "so that other legally married same-sex couples could enjoy the same federal rights and benefits as anyone else".

Their trip to Toronto for a civil ceremony in May 2007, as well as their decades-long devotion, was chronicled in an award-winning documentary titled "Edie and Thea - A Very Long Engagement".

Edith Windsor was born in 1929, shortly before her parents lost their home and business in the Depression.

But the couple could not marry in NY during Spyer's lifetime. She became a computer programmer at IBM in 1958.

Spyer was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1977.

Just two years later, Spyer died.

A public memorial will be held September 15 at at Riverside Memorial Chapel in New York City.

Windsor spent decades working tirelessly as an LGBTQ activist in and around NY, including once going to so far to donate her Cadillac to a Village Halloween parade in Manhattan where, upon seeing her name on the car's "donated by" sign, she turned to Spyer, and said "It's a whole new world".

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