Marriage Equality, Edie Windsor Get the Drunk History Treatment

Drunk History

Just in time for Valentine's Day and ahead of the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, Drunk History is celebrating one of the most important love stories in LGBTQ history.

The latest episode of Comedy Central's hit series features the story of Edith "Edie" Windsor and Thea Spyer, two lesbians from New York whose marriage became a focal point in the fight against the Defense of Marriage Act and helped same-sex marriage become legal across America in 2013. Sugar Lyn Beard plays Windsor and Alison Brie plays Spyer, and the story is (drunkenly) narrated by Alison Rich and Kirby Howell-Baptiste.

"The year is 1950; the place is the United States of A," Rich says. "At this point in history, it's not even legal to dance closely to a person of the same sex. So Edie Windsor was a young lesbian, and she's like, 'Ooh, I gotta keep my personal life private, 'cause this is the past, and the past is close-minded.'"

"I'm talking about gay stuff," she adds, cracking up.

The episode tells the story of how Windsor and Spyer met, bonded over their love of dancing and fell in love, despite having to keep their relationship a secret. But after the Stonewall Riots on June 28, 1969, Windsor began to wonder if they should come out publicly as a show of support for the LGBTQ community.

In Rich's retelling, the women were reluctant to become revolutionaries and remained privately in love for the next 30 years; but near the end of Spyer's life in 2007, they decided to officially get married in Canada, where same-sex marriage was recently legalized. After Spyer's death in 2009, however, the American government refused to recognize their marriage and ordered Windsor to pay nearly half a million dollars in estate taxes. Windsor's fight to have her marriage recognized turned her into a hero for the queer community. 

"When push came to shove, being who they were was revolutionary," Rich told The Advocate. "In this day and age, I think it's really great that people are being more motivated to get more active politically, but it can also be super overwhelming. Knowing that taking the small step of being who you are, maybe not to the whole world but to your family or on your micro-level can make a lot of change."

She says it was an uplifting experience to tell this story in the midst of all the recent pushback against the LGBTQ community, and an important reminder that rights so recently won by marginalized people can slip away if activists don't keep fighting for them. 

"So many people that I love who identify as LGBT [are] so brave, and it's important to stand in solidarity with them. I think it's easy to think these battles are done and won and there's no more work to do, but at this cultural moment we're seeing more than ever, like with what happened to Jussie Smollett, there's still work to be done. An anniversary like Stonewall is a reminder that we can't get complacent. These rights are so important, and not everybody agrees with that. We need to keep celebrating these moments."

Drunk History creator Derek Waters told reporters at a Comedy Central press event last month that it's important that everyone remembers Edie Windsor's story.

"We need to know about her. We need to know what they went through to fight for gay marriage, and how important it is. No matter what race or sex you are, this is really important. It's love. Let people be in love. If you don't, we're done."

Watch Drunk History's video about Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer below: 

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