Marriage Equality Pioneer Edith Windsor Dead At Age 88

Kristopher Drake
September 13, 2017

Gay rights activist Edith Windsor, whose same-sex marriage fight led to a landmark United States ruling, has died aged 88.

The well-known activist's death was confirmed by her wife, Judith Kasen-Windsor.

Edith Windsor, the gay-rights activist whose landmark Supreme Court case struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013 and granted same-sex married couples federal recognition for the first time and rights to myriad federal benefits, died on Tuesday in Manhattan.

Thea Spyer, left, and Edie Windsor were a couple for 44 years and married for 20 months.

. That was part of her allure, both to young people who stopped her on the streets for a hug, and to a Supreme Court that doubtless saw-in Edie Windsor-that love truly means love.

In 2013, the Supreme Court decided 5-4 in United States v. Windsor that the federal government can not deny spousal benefits to same-sex couples, striking down several federal provisions under DOMA in the process.

Gay rights pioneer Edith Windsor, whose lawsuit against the federal government helped pave the way for same-sex marriage nationwide, has died at 88.

When Windsor's lifelong partner died in 2009, the IRS billed her for more than $300,000 in estate taxes she would not have owed had the government recognized their marriage.

Roberta Kaplan, Windsor's lawyer in her landmark Supreme Court case, remembers her as a "true American hero".

"The world lost a tiny but tough-as-nails fighter for freedom, justice and equality", Judith Kasen-Windsor was quoted as saying.

"Don't let anything make you feel that somehow they can beat us, because they can't", she said at the time. "The next generation is so far advanced over us", Windsor said. "I also know that her memory will be a blessing not only to every LGBT person on this planet, but to all who believe in the concept of b'tzelem elohim, or equal dignity for all". Thea Spyer and Windsor became a lifelong couple and in 1967, Spyer proposed.

Windsor, born to an immigrant Jewish family from Philadelphia in 1929, was an unlikely civil rights icon; glamorous, wealthy and successful. A year ago in an interview with the Washington Blade, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton identified Windsor as an LGBT person she sees as a role model.

Spyer came into her life in 1963, and they became a couple two years later.

A public memorial for Windsor will be held at Riverside Memorial Chapel this Friday at 12:30 p.m. In lieu of flowers, Windsor had requested, prior to her death, that any donations in her memory be made to The LGBT Center, Callen-Lorde, Hetrick-Martin Institute, and SAGE.

The Supreme Court later bolstered the rulings of two lower courts in a 5-4 ruling, which states that nobody should be "deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law".

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