America’s long journey towards equality has been guided by countless small acts of persistence, and fueled by the stubborn willingness of quiet heroes to speak out for what’s right. Few were as small in stature as Edie Windsor – and few made as big a difference to America.
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. She was engaged to her partner, Thea, for forty years. After a wedding in Canada, they were married for less than two.
But federal law didn’t recognize a marriage like theirs as valid – which meant that they were denied certain federal rights and benefits that other married couples enjoyed. And when Thea passed away, Edie spoke up – not for special treatment, but for equal treatment – so that other legally married same-sex couples could enjoy the same federal rights and benefits as anyone else.
In my second inaugural address, I said that if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. And because people like Edie stood up, my administration stopped defending the so-called Defense of Marriage Act in the courts.
The day that the Supreme Court issued its 2013 ruling in United States v. Windsor was a great day for Edie, and a great day for America – a victory for human decency, equality, freedom, and justice. And I called Edie that day to congratulate her.
Two years later, to the day, we took another step forward on our journey as the Supreme Court recognized a Constitutional guarantee of marriage equality. It was a victory for families, and for the principle that all of us should be treated equally, regardless of who we are or who we love.
I thought about Edie that day. I thought about all the millions of quiet heroes across the decades whose countless small acts of courage slowly made an entire country realize that love is love – and who, in the process, made us all more free. They deserve our gratitude. And so does Edie. Michelle and I offer our condolences to her wife, Judith, and to all who loved and looked up to Edie Windsor.
From Wikipedia: Some brief facts about Edith.
-born 1929 as youngest of three children to Russian Jewish parents. She suffered anti-Semitic bullying at school. She dated boys but claimed she had crushes on girls. She married Saul Windsor but divorced one year later telling him that she longed to be with women..
She obtained a Master’s degree in Mathematics from N.,Y University in 1957. She worked at IBM for next sixteen years. In 1963 she met Thea Spyer, a psychologist – each was in a female relationship. In 1967, Thea gave Edith an engagement pin – instead of a ring. This was to keep prying co-workers in the dark.
A Long Term Relationship
In 1968, they bought a small house on Long Island where they vacationed for 40 (forty).summers. 1977 was a sad year when Thea was diagnosed with progressive multiple sclerosis. Edith used her early retirement to become a full-time caregiver. By 1993, the couple were able to register for a domestic partnership in New York City.
Thea’s Health Further Deteriorates
In 2007, Thea suffered a heart attack and was given one year to live. Since the USA had not legalized same-sex marriage, the couple flew to Toronto and were married on May 22, 2007 by Canada’s first openly gay judge, Justice Harvey Brownstone. An announcement of their wedding was published in the New York Times. Thea died on February 5, 2008. Edith was hospitalized with stress cardiomyopathy.
Edith battled for many years to receive her right/moneys from their joint estate. In Windsor’s case, she was obligated to pay more than $500,000 in state and federal taxes, from which heterosexual couples in the same situation would have been exempt.
Edith and Judith Marry
On September 26, 2016, Windsor married Judith Kasen at New York City Hall. At the time of the wedding, Windsor was age 87 and Kasen was age 51. Edith was a member of the non-denominational Congregation Best Simchat Synagogue – which has been described as the world’s largest LGBT synagogue.
Edith has entered LGBTI history as a wonderfully kind woman and a great rainbow activist.