Dems Take on DOMA
March 16 2011 6:15 AM ET
RMA Intro Remarks
March 16, 2011
My name is Edie Windsor and I am here today as a person whose life has been adversely impacted by DOMA, as have the lives of so many others.
My late spouse, Thea Spyer, and I lived together and loved each other for more than four decades. We began dating in 1965, became engaged with a circular diamond brooch in 1967, and stayed engaged for 40 years, in- love- with and caring for each other, sharing all the joys and sorrows that came our way.
During those years, as any couple does, we lived through good times — filled with jobs that we loved, great friends and dancing — oh we danced. And we also lived through the vicissitudes of aging and illness.
In 1977, Thea was diagnosed with Chronic Progressive Multiple Sclerosis — first, one cane, then two crutches, wheelchairs and quadriplegia. Fortunately, the MS only affected Thea's body, not her brilliant mind or her cognition.
In 1996, I had to have coronary bypass surgery. And still we lived and enjoyed our life together.
In 2007, when Thea was given a year-to-live-medical-prognosis, we realized that we were running out of time and decided to get married.
In those 40-some years, we never thought of ourselves as single, so what could be different? It didn’t occur to us that people would see us differently as a legally married couple. But they did.
When our wedding announcement ran in the New York Times, we heard from literally hundreds of people from every stage of our lives — playmates and schoolmates, colleagues, friends and relatives, pouring out love and congratulations because we were married!
Marriage is an institution that means so much to so many. It represents the ultimate expression of love and commitment between two people — and everyone understands that. In the whole world, everyone understands that!
When Thea passed away two years ago, I was overcome with grief. Within a month, I was hospitalized with a heart attack.
In the midst of this, I had to spend countless hours defending our marriage to the federal government.
Because of DOMA, I was forced to pay $363,000 in federal estate tax that I would not have had to pay had I been married to a man. While New York state considered us married, the federal government taxed what I had inherited from Thea as though we were strangers. I am 81 years old and live on a fixed income, and paying that tax was not easy for me.
Because of my overwhelming sense of the unfairness and injustice of this, I decided to bring a lawsuit in federal court in New York challenging DOMA as unconstitutional and seeking the return of the tax I was forced to pay as a result of DOMA.
DOMA, the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, excludes same-sex couples from fully participating in marriage and that is unfair. And it excludes gay people from the ability to protect their spouse when one of them dies and that is unfair. All marriages should be treated equally in the eyes of the law.
President Obama and the Department of Justice recently agreed with the merits of my lawsuit and announced that they would no longer defend the constitutionality of DOMA. House Speaker Boehner, however, disagrees and has said that he will retain counsel to defend it. So it looks right now like my legal fight is far from over.
I understand that the legislation being introduced by my Congressman Jerry Nadler and others today would accomplish the same result by repealing DOMA in the legislature. Since I am not young and may not have enough time left to fight, any and all roads that lead to the end of DOMA as soon as possible have my full and unequivocal support.