Edith Windsor died today in Manhattan at the age of 88. She is survived by her wife, Judith Kasen-Windsor, who confirmed the death but did not specify the cause.
A pioneer for LGBTQ rights, her fight for marriage equality resulted in the 2013 ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act. Two years later in 2015, the Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage to be legal nationwide.
What started as a simple legal battle for a tax refund became a landmark decision in the fight for marriage equality. Although it was limited to 13 states and the District of Columbia, the stakes were heightened by the basic rights only afforded to married heterosexual couples, from social security to healthcare to veterans’ benefits.
Its historic significance has been compared to the Lawrence v. Texas decision that decriminalized gay sex in the United States, 10 years before in 2003.
Together for 40 years, Windsor was legally married to Thea Spyer in 2007 in Canada. Having died in 2009, Spyer left her estate to Windsor but the IRS denied the widow’s unlimited spousal exemption from federal estate taxes, taxing her $363,053. Windsor sued the government for unconstitutional treatment against same-sex marriage partners.
Since her landmark case, Windsor has become a face of the LGBTQ community. She was a grand marshal of the New York Pride March, a runner-up to Pope Francis for Time’s person of the year in 2013, and an honoree in the OUT 100.
“Married is a magic word,” Ms. Windsor said at a rally in 2009. “And it is magic throughout the world. It has to do with our dignity as human beings, to be who we are openly.”
Thank you, Edie, for bringing that dignity to our community.