#QueerHeroes Day 4 – Edith “Edie” Windsor

#QueerHeroes Day 4.
Edith “Edie” Windsor

Edith Windsor was a queer rights activist who fought for us long before United States v. Windsor would solidify her legacy in our community. She met her partner and eventual wife Thea Spyer in 1963. In 1969, they arrived back in New York from a trip to Italy on the second day of the Stonewall Riots. After that, they began attending marches and Windsor would lend her Cadillac to queer rights organizations.

When Thea died, Windsor was demanded to pay over 300k in estate taxes because, under Section III of the Defense of Marriage Act, “marriage” was defined as a union between one man and one woman. The US didn’t recognize their marriage as legitimate and therefore Windsor couldn’t benefit from the estate tax exemption that surviving spouses in straight marriages enjoyed. Windsor took our country’s ass all the way up to the Supreme Court, where they found that “The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.” (Interestingly enough, this decision was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy who also authored the decision in the bakery case today).

I met Edith Windsor by chance in a theatre lobby one night. Needless to say, she wasn’t surprised when a teary-eyed gay came up and asked to hug her. I first saw her from a distance at my first Pride Parade (and the very first after the DOMA ruling). She was grand marshal and waved joyously to the crowd from a Cadillac Convertible—presumably the same treasured one she’d lent to queer organizations after Stonewall. Edie died in September 2017.

Keep in mind, y’all. We’ve been swaying the courts for generations. We may have moments of defeat, but we are collectively, ultimately irrepressible.

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