Marriage Equality Activist Edith Windsor Dies at 88

Edith Windsor, LGBTQ and civil rights activist, dies at 88 in Manhattan on Tuesday.

After the death of her wife, Thea Spyer, in 2009, Windsor attempted to claim federal tax exemptions on her wife’s estate tax. Since same-sex marriage was not recognized by the federal government under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Windsor was denied the federal tax exemptions.

The Defense of Marriage Act legally defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. At the time, the decision to allow same-sex couples the right to marry was determined on a state-by-state basis. However, even while some states recognized same-sex marriage, the federal government did not. As a result, same-sex couples were not eligible to receive the same federal benefits as heterosexual married couples.

Windsor and her wife had a relationship lasting more than 40 years. While they were married in Canada in 2007, their marriage was still not recognized by the U.S. federal government. Windsor argued that because the state of New York recognized her marriage, discrimination by the federal government was unconstitutional. Her case, United States v. Windsor, went to the Supreme Court.

On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that DOMA was unconstitutional. Windsor was recognized as the executor of her wife’s estate. As a result of this ruling, the federal government can no longer discriminate against same-sex couples by denying them the federal benefits granted to heterosexual married couples.

Windsor remained heavily involved with advocacy work after the ruling.

The LGBT+ community mourns the loss of Edith Windsor. She is widely considered to be a champion of the LGBT+ community. President Obama said of Windsor, “Few were as small in stature as Edie Windsor, and few made as big a difference to America.”

Windsor is survived by her wife, Judith Kasen, whom she married in 2016.

Media Sources: ACLU 4/25/14, CNN 9/12/17, Washington Post 9/13/17, New York Times 9/30/16, 9/12/17

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