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Published: Fri, September 15, 2017
Culture | By Antonia Gonzales

Gay rights champion Edith Windsor dead at 88

Gay rights champion Edith Windsor dead at 88

Edith Windsor, the LGBT activist whose 2013 Supreme Court win paved the way for same-sex marriage nationwide, died in Manhattan Tuesday.

One of the most significant civil rights cases in recent USA history started with a tax bill. After Spyer passed, the United States government saddled her with outrageous estate taxes she was forced to pay because her marriage wasn't recognized by law.

Her legal action was prompted by the death a year earlier of her first spouse, Thea Spyer, who she married legally in 2007 in Canada following a four-decade-long relationship. Windsor's wife, Judith Kasen-Windsor, confirmed the news. And like they first did at the Greenwich Village restaurant Portofino in 1963, they danced, Edie on the arm of Thea's wheelchair.

But she was wary to reveal her sexuality to co-workers and it was not until 1967, when Ms. Spyer proposed to Ms. Windsor, that she became publicly open.

"Today, we mourn the loss of Edie Windsor". Her courage means millions of Americans can now marry the person they love. The two remained in legal limbo for 40 years, until the couple Wednesday in Canada in 2007.

Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD released the following statement: 'Edie Windsor is a legend who changed the course of history for the better. At the time, some gay-rights activists anxious it simply might be too soon to have their day in court, concerned - as Mary Bonauto of the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders put it at the time - that the Supreme Court would want to be sure "they are not too far ahead of public opinion". They were engaged for 40 long years until their eventual marriage, some 30 years after Spyer was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Spyer was a psychologist with a large NY practice.

TOTENBERG: Spyer died 21 months later.

Windsor's unlikely legal battle toppled a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act, which had denied married gay and lesbian couples the same federal benefits enjoyed by others. Windsor was barred from obtaining the exemption under DOMA, which defined "marriage" as excluding same-sex couples.

"The money matters to me a great deal", Windsor said at the time. When Spyer died two years later, the IRS ordered $363,000 in taxes paid by her estate.

Windsor made headlines in 2013 when she sued the US government for refusing to recognize her late wife as a legal spouse. She attended a State Dinner at the White House and met with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office. Within months, federal judges began to invalidate state laws that discriminated against same-sex couples, too. "We were proud to stand with Edie when she took her fight on behalf of same-sex couples everywhere to the Supreme Court". "And she said, 'Then there's nothing to hold you there.' That was all". "Did I ever think we would be discussing equality in marriage?"

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