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Marriage Equality

Edie Windsor 'Thrilled,' Honored by New York's Governor as Civil Rights Pioneer

Edie Windsor 'Thrilled,' Honored by New York's Governor as Civil Rights Pioneer


The plaintiff in the landmark case that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act two years ago celebrated Friday at the Stonewall Inn.

One week after Edith Windsor celebrated her 86th birthday, the plaintiff in the landmark case that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act hosted another celebration Friday morning in her apartment near Washington Square Park, where she lived for decades with her late spouse, Thea Spyer.

Windsor was dialed into a conference call with her attorneys at a Midtown Manhattan law firm, according to The New York Times, to hear the news that Supreme Court had decided that people of the same sex were entitled to marry.

She told the New Yorker magazine she was in an awfully good mood. "I'm thrilled, I'm absolutely thrilled!" she told writer Ariel Levy over the phone. "Thrilled with the content of the decision.

"She wept," her lawyer, Roberta A. Kaplan told The Times.

Friday's decision guaranteeing marriage equality came two years ago to the day that the United States Supreme Court ruled that Windsor was entitled to the same estate tax benefits as any other person who had lost a spouse. It didn't matter, the court found, that Windsor's spouse was another woman.

On Friday night, Windsor traveled to speak at a gathering outside the Stonewall Inn, where Governor Cuomo officiated at his first same sex wedding since the decision. Earlier, he cited Windsor as a pioneer.

"When we passed the Marriage Equality Act in 2011, New York sent a message to the nation that it was time to end one of society's greatest inequities, and I am thrilled to see the Court join us on the right side of history. Dividing people into first and second-class citizens is not only wrong, it runs contrary to who we are as a nation. From Stonewall to Edie Windsor, New Yorkers have always been on the front lines of the fight to ensure equality and fairness for all. Today, we are proud New Yorkers and proud Americans. Today, progress marches on."

Windsor spoke of that progress in an interview with the New Yorker earlier Friday:

"I think it's only the next major step. We have a history: beginning to see each other with Stonewall, when a whole new community began to recognize itself; the AIDS crisis--we'd always been separated! Gays and lesbians, separated! But when lesbians came forward to help with the victims of AIDS, we all saw each other very differently. I see this as another huge step towards equality--I combine, it, obviously, with my case."

Windsor went to court after Spyer, her partner of over 40 years, died in 2009. Spyer had named Windsor as her sole heir but, because of DOMA, Windsor was ineligible for the estate-tax exemption that applies to husbands and wives -- even though she and Spyer had wed in Canada, in 2007 -- and she was required to pay over $600,000 to the state and federal government. She's since gotten it all back, plus interest.

Windsor told the New Yorker she and Obergefell were introduced "at the A.C.L.U. cocktail party the other day." Both of them had nursed their spouses during terminal illnesses. "We started to talk and it wasn't five minutes before I started to cry. And Jim said, 'Stop! Stop!' And he started to cry, too."

Read more about how Edie Windsor met Thea Spyer in Out Magazine, by clicking here.

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