Edith Windsor, the LGBTQ Activist Who Fought to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage, Has Died at 88

Edith Windsor, the LGBTQ activist and plaintiff the the 2016 case United States v. Windsor, which lead to the legalization of same-sex marriage in the U.S, died at the age of 88 on Tuesday, The New York Times reports.

Following the death of her first wife Thea Spyer in 2009, Windsor was forced to pay a $363,000 inheritance tax on the money Spyer left behind for her — a burden that, at the time, was not placed on heterosexual married couples when one spouse died. In response, Windsor sued the federal government for not recognizing her marriage. United States v. Windsor made it to the Supreme Court in 2013, and the court voted 5-4 that the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined "spouse" as a relationship only between heterosexual couples, was unconstitutional. 

"I cried, I cried,” Windsor reportedly said in 2013 after SCOTUS made the ruling on her case. "Children born today will grow up in a world without DOMA. And those same children who happen to be gay will be free to love and get married ― as Thea and I did ― but with the same federal benefits, protections and dignity as everyone else. If I had to survive Thea, what a glorious way to do it and she would be so pleased."

Windsor's case was not only a landmark decision, but it helped pave the way for SCOTUS to legalize gay marriage in all 50 states in 2015. Windsor received a personal call of congratuations from President Obama (#goals), and she was even a runner-up for Time magazine's person of the year in 2013.

Following her death, former POTUS Barack Obama told the Times, "I had the privilege to speak with Edie a few days ago, and to tell her one more time what a difference she made to this country we love," he said. “Because people like Edie stood up, my administration stopped defending the so-called Defense of Marriage Act in the courts."

Prior to her career as an activist, Windsor kept her sexuality a secret from friends a coworkers for years, even briefly marrying a man before meeting Spyer in 1963. Windsor is survived by her second wife Judith Kasen-Windsor, who she married in October 2016.

About The Author

Caroline Pirozzolo is a sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she is majoring in Journalism. In her free time, Caroline enjoys buying more fashion magazines and books than she can ever possibly read, being an art history nerd, consuming mass amounts of coffee and Chipotle, and fawning over pictures of French Bulldog puppies. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @c_pirozzolo. 

Editor's Note

Are you an aspiring journalist or just looking for an outlet where you can share your voice? Apply to write for Her Campus!

User login