Edie Windsor, Mother of Marriage Equality, Dead at 88

Edie Windsor

Edie Windsor has died.

The lesbian pioneer's death was confirmed by her wife, Judith Kasen-Windsor, according to the New York Times, although the cause is not known. She was 88.

Windsor was the plaintiff in Windsor v. United States, the landmark 2013 Supreme Court decision that gutted the Defense of Marriage Act, making federal government recognition of same-sex marriages possible. 

Windsor's first marriage was to Thea Spyer. They became partners in the 1960s and were finally able to marry in Canada in 2007. But the U.S. did not recognize their marriage, with the result that when Spyer died two years later, Windsor owed $363,000 in estate taxes — which she would not have owed if she had been married to a man. 

Windsor sued the federal government for a refund and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court, resulting in the 2013 decision. It is considered one of the most important LGBT rights cases in U.S. history. Edie & Thea, a documentary on the couple that made history, can be viewed at Here TV.

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Pictured: Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer

"I lost my beloved spouse Edie, and the world lost a tiny but tough as nails fighter for freedom, justice and equality. 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," stated Kasen-Windsor, who wed Edie in 2016.

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

"Representing Edie Windsor was and will always be the greatest honor of my life," said Kaplan. "She will go down in the history books as a true American hero. With Edie’s passing, I lost not only a treasured client, but a member of my family."

"I know that Edie’s memory will always be a blessing to Rachel, myself, and Jacob. 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," Kaplan added.

Prominent civil rights leaders also shared their love of the late activist.

“Today, we lost one of this country’s great civil rights pioneers, Edie Windsor. The wheels of progress turn forward because of people like Edie who are willing to stand up in the face of injustice," said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“Our fierce heroine Edith Windsor devoted her final years to her people – the LGBTQ community – and will be remembered as a seminal figure in our inevitable march toward equality," said Aisha C. Moodie-Mills, president and CEO of the Victory Institute.

“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," said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD.

"All LGBT people will remember and celebrate Edie for her iconic leadership on marriage equality. We at SAGE will also honor Edie for being our friend, for making SAGE her home for more than three decades, and for being an endless source of inspiration for LGBT elders across the country," said Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE.

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of Edie Windsor, a hero and icon for the LGBT rights movement. Many of us feel the personal loss of a tremendous friend and mentor, whom we will never forget. She fought for dignity and laid the foundation for marriage equality. Her legacy will live on in history and be felt in the lives of our community for many years to come," said Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

"She’s a civil rights giant who will impact hundreds of thousands of people for decades to come and will be remembered as a woman whose bravery and insistence on equality and respect changed the course of history," said Christine C. Quinn, president and CEO of Win, and the first female and first out speaker of the New York City Council.

Leaders of the LGBT community are planning a candlelight vigil Tuesday night in front of the Stonewall Inn in New York City. A public memorial will be held September 15, 12:30 p.m. at Riverside Memorial Chapel. Windsor requested that, instead of flowers, donations in her memory be made to The NYC LGBT Center, Callen-Lorde, Hetrick-Martin Institute, and SAGE.

 

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