Edith Windsor, at the center of DOMA, overjoyed at ruling
She went to Washington and changed the lives of gay couples all across the country. Edith Windsor, an 84-year-old New Yorker, cemented her place in history as a gay rights icon Wednesday after she successfully sued the United States over the Defense of Marriage Act, bringing an end to the 1996 law that denied same-sex married couples the legal rights and benefits of marriage.
Windsor, along with her lead attorney Roberta Kaplan and a handful of other lawyers, filed the lawsuit after her spouse Thea Spyer died in 2009 from multiple sclerosis, leaving Windsor all of her property.
As a result, Windsor was forced to pay $363,000 in estate taxes that, had Spyer been a man, she would not have been charged.
The case winded its way through New York’s court system for two-and-a-half years before landing in front of the country’s highest court in March. Kaplan argued the case and, now three months later, the Court decided in a 5-4 majority against DOMA, giving same-sex married couples the same legal standing as heterosexual married couples.
“If I had to survive Thea, what a glorious way to do it,” Edith said Wednesday near tears at the headquarters of the ACLU after the ruling came down. “We won everything we asked and hoped for, [AND]I’m honored and humbled and overjoyed to be here today.”
“This is the beginning of the end of the stigma,” Windsor added. “It’s a different level of dignity.”
Windsor met her late spouse at a West Village restaurant in 1965. The two instantly fell for each other, becoming engaged two years later and married in 2007 in Canada. Two years later, Spyer, who had become quadriplegic due to her illness, died.
After Wednesday’s victory, Windsor has become the seminal icon of the same-sex marriage movement, and will even be the grand marshal in Sunday’s Gay Pride Parade. But now in her twilight years, half-deaf and with a difficulty walking, she said she will leave it to others to continue along the path she set.
“I don’t have a ton of years left, and I’d like to relax a little bit,” she said when asked whether she will continue to be a gay rights leader. “There’s a whole world of people who will do that.”