Edith Windsor, the historic gay-rights activist whose landmark case led the Supreme Court to grant same-sex married couples federal recognition for the first time, died on Tuesday in Manhattan. She was 88.
Edith was the lead plaintiff in the legal challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013. She was regarded as a hero among the LGBT community, who credited the SCOTUS ruling in her case as being the first step toward true marriage equality.
Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said that with Windsor’s death, “we lost one of this country’s great civil rights pioneers.”
“The wheels of progress turn forward because of people like Edie, who are willing to stand up in the face of injustice,” Romero said in a statement. “One simply cannot write the history of the gay rights movement without reserving immense credit and gratitude for Edie Windsor.”
Former President Barack Obama also offered his condolences, “Few were as small in stature as Edie Windsor — and few made as big a difference to America,” Obama said.
Windsor credited her fight to her late wife, Thea Clara Spyer, who died in 2009. Windsor and Spyer married in 2007 after some 40 years together as a couple. Spyer left her estate to Windsor, but the Internal Revenue Service denied her the unlimited spousal exemption from federal estate taxes available to married heterosexuals, and was forced to pay nearly $400,000 in taxes.
Ms. Kasen-Windsor, Edith’s only survivor said, “I lost my beloved spouse Edie, and the world lost a tiny but tough as nails fighter for freedom, justice and equality. Edie was the light of my life. She will always be the light for the LGBTQ community which she loved so much and which loved her right back.”