The Fight for Love: The Edith Windsor Legacy
Windsor’s legal battle to have her partnership with her then-lover, Thea Spyer, recognized after Spyer’s death eventually led to the US Supreme Court to declare in 2015 that same-sex marriage was a constitutional right
As Richard Socarides wrote in The New Yorker, “Edith Windsor, who died yesterday, at the age of eighty-eight, came to represent, more than any other person, the stunning success of the gay-rights movement over the past decade. She was, for those of us in the LGBT community, our Rosa Parks.”
The Edith Windsor legacy: Her love for Spyer
Windsor’s fight for the LGBT community started with her love for Spyer, who presented a round diamond brooch and asked her in 1967: “Edie Windsor, will you marry me?”
It would take them 40 years to actually get married when the two got officially married in Toronto, Canada in 2007 because same-sex marriage was illegal in New York and in 37 other states.
Unfortunately, Spyer– who was 75 then– was suffering from multiple sclerosis. Spyer died in 2009 and left her estate to Windsor, including $363,053 in federal estate taxes because exemptions from legally recognized spouses didn’t apply to her.
So Windsor sued the US for a refund, resulting in the landmark US high court decision in 2013 that invalidated a part of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that defined marriage in federal terms as a union between a man and a woman.
This 2013 decision eventually led the Supreme Court to make their 2015 landmark ruling. When the Supreme Court issued the 2013 ruling, Windsor said: “If I had to survive Thea, what a glorious way to do it.”
The Edith Windsor legacy: Her fighting spirit
Even after her victory, Windsor never stopped fighting for the LGBT community and became an incon for them.
Socarides said: “She was a hero almost without detractors; she was often blunt, but she personified courage, which is what it took for a gay person to bring a public legal claim for equality.”
With her victory in 2013, even then-US President Barack Obama called to congratulate her. She was also a runner-up for Time magazine’s “Person of the Award” within that year.
“I don’t know how to say it that’s not corny as hell—I’ve been having a love affair with the gay community. I got a million letters. I think Thea would love it,” Windsor said in a 2013 itnterview with the New Yorker.
Despite her love for Spyer, Windsor still managed to fall in love and marry Judith Kasen in 2016.
“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,” she added.
The future of the Edith Windsor legacy
Socarides, a longtime gay-rights advocate who first met Windsor in the 1980s, expressed doubts that what current-President Donald Trump is doing would turn back Windsor’s legacy.
“Once the Court has ruled expansively, as it did in her case, finding, for the first time, that gay people should be treated equally under the law when it comes to a fundamental right such as marriage, it can’t really take that holding back. There is certainly no precedent in our history for such a reversal of liberty,” he added.
“This is Edie Windsor’s legacy: that it was her case, her perseverance, her conviction that she was entitled to equal treatment under the law, which set the rule that will keep us equal,” Socarides noted.
Meanwhile, Tom Perez, Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), said in a statement, “America lost a civil rights hero today. Edie Windsor fought for love, and that’s why her legacy will live forever.”
“The best way to honor Edie Windsor’s memory is to pick up where she left off and continue fighting for the full equality LGBTQ Americans deserve,” Perez said.