Gay rights activist Edith Windsor passed away at 88 in Manhattan on Tuesday (12 September). Her wife, Judith Kasen-Windsor, confirmed the news but did not specify a cause of death. They married in 2016.
Born in Philadelphia in 1929 to Jewish immigrants from Russia, Windsor’s life and battle for equal rights led to major victories for the LGBTI community in the United States.
In 2007, Windsor, who went by Edie, married her partner of 40 years, Dr. Thea Spyer in Canada. Two years later, Spyer passed away.
Windsor inherited Spyer’s estate but because of 1996’s Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), same-sex couples were excluded from federal benefits. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) denied her unlimited spousal exemption and she had to pay taxes of $363,053.
She sued and her case went all the way to the Supreme Court. In a 5-4 decision, the 2013 case ruled in Windsor’s favor and overturned DOMA.
While not the sweeping victory people hoped for in terms of marriage equality, it was a crucial step forward. It’s now considered the second most important Supreme Court case for LGBTI rights, following 2015’s ruling legalizing marriage equality.
‘She touched countless lives’
People within the community and at large are mourning the loss of such an influential pioneer.
Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD released the following statement: ‘Edie Windsor is a legend who changed the course of history for the better. She touched countless lives, and we at GLAAD are deeply saddened by her passing, but her kindness, compassion, and legacy will endure.’
Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund Executive Director Jillian Weiss called Windsor a ‘giant in the LGBTQ movement’.
‘Edie’s decades-long devotion to her late wife, Thea Spyer, moved and inspired us all,’ she said. ‘Her fight to overturn DOMA transformed her from an everyday hero to one of the most visible and admired LGBTQ rights figures in history.’
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said: ‘Edie Windsor is a hero and civil rights icon who pushed our country closer to the promise of a more perfect union. 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.’
‘Words cannot express’
Condolences, grief, and gratitude for all Windsor did are pouring out.