Edith Windsor, the person who is most directly responsible for dismantling the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the ensuing legalization of same-sex marriage, passed away today at age 88.
Windsor and her partner Thea Spyer were together for 40 years. They started dating in 1965, and in 1967 Spyer popped the question. They remained engaged for 30 years, eventually legally marrying in 2007 in Toronto after Spyer was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Spyer died two years later.
Although their Canadian marriage was valid in New York, their marriage was not recognized in the United States because of DOMA. Windsor, therefore, was faced with a huge estate tax bill for her inheritance.
“If Thea was Theo, I would not have had to pay that,” she said in a 2013 NPR interview. “It’s heartbreaking. It’s just a terrible injustice, and I don’t expect that from my country. I think it’s a mistake that has to get corrected.”
To correct this, Windsor started her legal campaign against DOMA. The case went through appeals courts and the Supreme Court took it up in 2012. In a 5-4 vote, the high court overturned DOMA in 2013, a victory for same-sex marriage advocates. Two years later the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was legal in the U.S. The chain of events made Windsor an icon to the LGBTQ community. Windsor was a 2013 runner-up for Time magazine Person of the Year.
In 2016, Windsor married Judith Kasen-Windsor, who announced Edith’s death in a statement.
“I lost my beloved spouse Edie, and the world lost a tiny but tough as nails fighter for freedom, justice and equality,” Kasen-Windsor said. “Edie was the light of my life. She will always be the light for the LGBTQ community which she loved so much and which loved her right back.”
In a statement Tuesday, President Barack Obama paid tribute to Windsor, a true patriot, and her significant achievement.
“It was a victory for families, and for the principle that all of us should be treated equally, regardless of who we are or who we love,” he said.
Obama said he spoke with Windsor a few days ago and told her “one more time what a difference she made to this country we love.”
Take a look at the tribute to Edie and Thea Time produced in 2013.