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Edith ‘Edie’ Windsor, the lesbian whose 2010 lawsuit against the federal government paved the way to LGBTQ marriage equality, passed away today at the age of 88.
Edie Windsor and her legal legacy
In 2007, Windsor legally married her longtime partner Thea Spyer in Toronto, Canada. The following year, New York legalized marriage equality and the year after that, Spyer died. Spyer left Windsor an inheritance, and when filing taxes Windsor sought the federal estate tax exemption for surviving spouses. However, because Section Three of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA, required the federal government only to recognize marriages as being between “a man and a woman,” they denied Windsor’s claim, forcing her to pay $363,053 in estate taxes.
Windsor sued, and on June 26, 2013 — nearly 44 years after the Stonewall Uprising — the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5–4 decision declaring Section 3 of DOMA as unconstitutional, stating that it was “a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment.”
The Supreme Court victory raised serious legal questions about the government’s interest in refusing marriage to same-sex couples and help build momentum to the growing number of marriage-related court cases that eventually led to the 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing marriage equality nationwide.
Windsor remarried in September 2016 in a wedding to Judith Kasen-Windsor.
LGBTQ and civil rights organizations mourn the passing of Edie Windsor
The American Civil Liberties Union wrote:
Today, we lost one of this country’s great civil rights pioneers, Edie Windsor. The wheels of progress turn forward because of people like Edie who are willing to stand up in the face of injustice…. We were proud to stand with Edie when she took her fight on behalf of same-sex couples everywhere to the Supreme Court. We mourn her today, as do all whom she touched in her incredible life.
Gays and Lesbians Allied Against Defamation (GLAAD) had this to say:
She touched countless lives, and we at GLAAD are deeply saddened by her passing, but her kindness, compassion, and legacy will endure. LGBTQ advocates and organizations are planning a vigil for Edie outside of the Stonewall Inn in New York City tonight.
Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) released this:
We’ve lost a lesbian national treasure, someone who committed to love and never stopped pushing for change and justice. Edie had such joy for life, and gave our community so much. I hope she felt our love for her, and that we gave back to her in the same way she gave to all of us.
Lambda Legal wrote:
Our hearts are with Edie’s wife, Judith Kasen-Windsor, their family, friends and all whose lives were changed because Edie so fearlessly stood up for herself and her community…. Because of Edie, we are a more perfect union. She left an indelible mark on all who knew her story, and all whose love is now recognized and protected because of the victory she helped secure for LGBT people. Thank you Edie. You will be remembered with deep respect and gratitude. We will miss you.
The Human Rights Campaign had this to say:
Future generations will learn how she faced down discrimination with courage and defiance, and boldly challenged the United States government to treat her marriage to Thea Spyer equally under the law — as our Constitution guarantees. After Edie Windsor succeeded in defeating the Defense of Marriage Act, she continued to push forward, galvanizing the support of hundreds of thousands of Americans in support of the Obergefell case before the United States Supreme Court in 2015.
Others mourned Edie Windsor’s passing on social media…
Thanking her …
Edie Windsor, whose anger at a bullshit half-million dollar tax bill after the death of her wife led to the undoing of DOMA, has died. RIP.
— James Richardson (@JamesRichardson) September 12, 2017
Rest in peace, Edie Windsor. Thank you for your courage, for your fighting spirit, and for being such an inspiration to us all. https://t.co/ss1YXWy5Qa
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) September 12, 2017
Obama on Edith Windsor: "I had the privilege to speak with Edie a few days ago, and to tell her one more time what a difference she made." pic.twitter.com/dpsTcJO99o
— ABC News (@ABC) September 12, 2017
In standing up for herself, Edie also stood up for millions of Americans and their rights. May she rest in peace. https://t.co/9nNazdmnPP
— Bill Clinton (@BillClinton) September 12, 2017
The arc of the moral universe bends toward justice. But sometimes it needs a good kick in the ass from people like Edie Windsor.
— Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) September 12, 2017
After defeating DOMA, Edie Windsor didn't let up. She galvanized hundreds of thousands in support of Obergefell case at SCOTUS.
— Chad Griffin (@ChadHGriffin) September 12, 2017
— Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) September 12, 2017
America lost a hero today. You were a trailblazer for the generation of LGBTQ activists we see making change today — thank you, Edie. pic.twitter.com/vPx5QCsqJV
— Tom Perez (@TomPerez) September 12, 2017
Reminding others of her legacy …
I love Edie Windsor. This video brings me to tears still. I watch it regularly. Rest in peace, you beautiful soul. https://t.co/FsGfwLZAnA
— Chase Strangio (@chasestrangio) September 12, 2017
Posting photos of her and Spyer …
Thea asked Edie to marry her decades before they could do it, with a circle of diamonds instead of a ring to keep it secret. pic.twitter.com/DfihkJfu8i
— Caroline Framke (@carolineframke) September 12, 2017
— Michael Goff (@michael_goff) September 12, 2017
These boss-ass women changed America with their love. Thank you Edie and Thea. pic.twitter.com/tVO0LMBbVc
— Alex Abad-Santos (@alex_abads) September 12, 2017
Edie Windsor & Thea Spyer
— Cameron Esposito (@cameronesposito) September 12, 2017
— Steven Thrasher (@thrasherxy) September 12, 2017
Reminding us of her unapologetic style …
thank you for everything, edie. rest in power pic.twitter.com/OUWZXMxLMU
— JamesMichael Nichols (@JMN) September 12, 2017
And leaving us with one of her best quotes:
"Don't postpone joy." – Edie Windsor. A good reminder today. And every day. #EdieWindsor
— Chase Strangio (@chasestrangio) September 12, 2017
Rest in power, Edith Windsor.