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Philadelphia Honors Marriage Equality Pioneer With Edie Windsor Way

Edie Windsor Street in Philadelphia

Philly's gayborhood now has a street recognizing the mother of marriage equality.

The City of Brotherly Love has bestowed an honor on the mother of marriage equality.

In a Sunday ceremony, Philadelphia unveiled a sign designating a block of South 13th Street as Edie Windsor Way, honoring the woman whose Supreme Court case brought down the main section of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Her widow, Judith Kasem-Windsor, posted photos of the event on social media. "'Don't Postpone Joy' today and take a stroll," she wrote, using one of Windsor's favorite sayings.

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While Windsor, who died in September 2017, eventually became a New Yorker, she was a native of Philadelphia and a graduate of the city's Temple University. The Philadelphia City Council's proclamation for the renaming of the block notes that she was born there to Russian Jewish immigrants in 1929, attended Philadelphia public schools, and overcame the poverty of her Depression-era childhood to obtain her Temple bachelor's degree and later a master's from New York University. She became a computer programmer for IBM.

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, which in 2013 struck down the portion of DOMA that prevented federal recognition of same-sex marriages.

"For thousands struggling for LGBTQ equality, the stakes went far beyond tax advantages available to married heterosexuals, including Social Security, health care and veterans' benefits, protection in immigration and bankruptcy cases, and keeping a home after a spouse had died," the city's proclamation notes of the ruling. The decision paved the way for other barriers to marriage equality to be struck down, culminating in the Supreme Court's 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, which established the freedom to marry nationwide.

The renamed block of 13th Street is between Walnut and Locust streets in the city's gayborhood. It is adjacent to another block honoring an LGBTQ rights pioneer, Barbara Gittings Way.

Judith Kasen-Windsor, who married Edie Windsor in 2016, was present at the ceremony, which was part of the city's Outfest, an annual event that takes place near National Coming Out Day. Others attending included local officials and activists as well as State Rep. Brian Sims, the first out gay man elected to the Pennsylvania legislature.

"A native Philadelphian, Edie will go down in history as one of the most energetic, empowered, and successful champions for equality in LGBTQ history," Sims wrote on Facebook. "Her case before the U.S. Supreme Court was a game changer and honoring her in the heart of Philadelphia's Gayborhood is something I'll never forget."

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