Barack Obama pens loving and moving tribute to Edith Windsor

Henrietta Strickland
September 13, 2017

What an incredible inheritance she left us.

When Windsor was 81, she brought a lawsuit that turned out to be a major moment for gay rights.

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.

Edie Windsor, whose landmark Supreme Court case led to the federal recognition of same-sex marriage, died in Manhattan, yesterday.

In 2009, Windsor was denied a spouse's exemption and forced to pay federal taxes on the estate of her late wife, Thea Spyer, who also was Jewish, although their Canadian marriage was recognized as legal by the State of NY, where they resided. (I first met her in the nineteen-eighties.) Most important, she was a romantic.

The women had married legally in Canada in 2007 after spending more than 40 years together, but under the U.S. Defense of Marriage Act she was barred from getting the usual exemption from federal taxes on Spyer's estate. "Edie was the light of my life". Windsor would not have it. The marriage ended after she told him she was gay.

She was 88-years-old. The impetus was the 2009 death of her spouse, Thea Spyer, a psychologist. And I called Edie that day to congratulate her. That picture told the world that, after all the years of rejections from family members, employers, psychiatrists, and the government, members of the L.G.B.T. community no longer had to hide, that we were free to be ourselves.

Other government officials including former President Bill Clinton and organizations like GLAAD also tweeted about her death.

At the time, Windsor said she was "honored", "humbled" and "overjoyed" when the decision came down.

Despite the increase in approval of same-sex marriage, President Donald Trump's position on the issue has been confusing. There is already litigation challenging the constitutionality of such an effort.

Outraged, she went to court, knowing that the case was about more than taxes or even marriage. That's against the emerging legal trend, and the view of the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is that the Act should, and already does, offer that protection.

The case, which made Windsor a revered figure in the modern gay rights movement, originally stemmed from a tax dispute. There was no turning back from Brown v. Board of Education, for example, as we entered a previous era of civil-rights litigation. Then-Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia predicted the ruling would be used to upend state restrictions on marriage and warned: "The only thing that will "confine" the court's holding is its sense of what it can get away with".

Sixty percent of those polled say they support same-sex marriage, up from 53 percent in 2013 when the Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of marriage Act was unconstitutional.

The case also turned Windsor into an LGBTQ icon.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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