Edith Windsor, whose fight for federal recognition of her marriage to her partner of 40 years helped to strike down the anti-LGBT Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and paved the way for full marriage equality, died on Tuesday at the age of 88.
Windsor married her longtime partner Thea Spyer in Canada in 2007. When Spyer died two years later, Windsor inherited her estate, only to be hit with a $363,000 tax bill—the federal estate tax from which she would have been exempt had she been married to a man.
"The wheels of progress turn forward because of people like Edie who are willing to stand up in the face of injustice."—Anthony Romero, ACLU
Windsor's resulting lawsuit led to the 2013 Supreme Court decision that granted federal recognition of the term "marriage"—and all the benefits that come with it—only to heterosexual couples, was unconstitutional. The decision opened up not only tax benefits but healthcare benefits, protections in immigration cases, food stamps, and other assistance to same-sex couples, who hadn't had access to those rights under DOMA. Two years later, the Supreme Court awarded full marriage equality to same-sex couples.
Windsor was regarded as a hero by the LGBT-rights community. The Advocate called her "the Mother of Marriage Equality" in its obituary. Roberta Kaplan, Windsor's attorney in her landmark case, was quoted in the article as saying, "Representing Edie Windsor was and will always be the greatest honor of my life. She will go down in the history books as a true American hero."
Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said, "Today, we lost one of this country's great civil rights pioneers, Edie Windsor. The wheels of progress turn forward because of people like Edie who are willing to stand up in the face of injustice."
Politicians and supporters paid tribute to her on social media:
Edith Windsor did good in life. She made the world a better place. That’s the best that can be said of anybody.— Harold Itzkowitz (@HaroldItz) September 12, 2017
RIP Edith Windsor. So few of us, while here, make a difference. You did. Thank you. https://t.co/4eneqmeKuZ— Mrs. Betty Bowers (@BettyBowers) September 12, 2017
RIP Edith Windsor, an engine of history.— Spencer Ackerman (@attackerman) September 12, 2017
A candlelight vigil was planned for Tuesday evening outside the historic Stonewall Inn in New York.