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History in the high court

‘Joyous’ plaintiff Edith Windsor cried at gay marriage ruling

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

NEW YORK — Edith Windsor cried with joy Wednesday when she learned that the Supreme Court used her lawsuit to strike down a federal provision that defined marriage as only between a man and a woman, and the spunky former IBM executive who recently turned 84 was all smiles two hours later when she faced a packed news conference.

“Wow. I’m honored. I’m humbled. I’m overjoyed to be here today,” said Windsor, a Manhattan resident who goes by Edie, her words sometimes barely audible above the loud snaps of cameras.

Richard Drew, AP
Edith Windsor, left, kisses her attorney Roberta Kaplan duirng a news conference at the LGBT Center, in New York, Wednesday, June 26, 2013.

The court issued a decision Wednesday striking down the provision, which denied federal benefits to married gay couples. The ruling, seen as a historic victory for gay rights, came in the justices’ review of the Windsor’s case. She sued to challenge a $363,000 federal estate tax bill after her partner of 44 years died in 2009.

Windsor said she hoped that the decision would bring about “the beginning of the end of stigma, of lying about who we are.”

Windsor recalled that she “lied all the time” about who she truly was during the 15 years she worked at IBM. In thinking back on those years a half-century ago, she said, “Some of it is almost incredible to me.”

Minutes earlier, her lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, had pointed out her client’s size – 5 feet tall and 100 pounds – as she described the huge impact her case had made in the nation’s legal fabric, saying that Windsor had made it so that gay and lesbian couples could participate fully in society “after so many dark decades of living their lives hidden in the closet.”

Windsor said she was not sure how the court would rule but she was confident of the common sense of her lawyers’ arguments.

“Our arguments were sound and everyone else’s were insane,” she said.

Windsor explained the genesis of the lawsuit she brought in federal court in Manhattan four years ago, saying she was “overwhelmed with the sense of injustice and unfairne ss” she felt when she learned that the death of her spouse, Thea Clara Spyer, meant she owed the estate taxes because she was not married to a man. She and Spyer had been married barely two years earlier in Canada, though she first met Spyer in 1963 and had lived with her for 40 years before they were married.

Windsor wore a circular diamond brooch that her late spouse had given her decades ago so Windsor would not unintentionally reveal her sexual orientation to her IBM colleagues. Repeatedly, Windsor referenced Spyer.

“To all of the gay people and their supporters who have cheered me along: thank you, thank you, thank you,” she said, then added, “I’m sure Thea is thanking you too.”

“Children born today will grow up in a world without DOMA,” she said at another point. “If I had to survive Thea, what a glorious way to do it.”

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13 more reader comments:

  1. Congratulations Edie!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 10:43am
  2. Way to go Edie and thank you so much!

    Posted on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 10:50am
  3. What an amazing woman. God Bless you Edie Windsor. Still gorgeous at 83.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 10:52am
  4. Congratulations Edie! God Bless You and your family!

    Posted on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 10:54am
  5. Congratulations Ladies!!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 11:06am
  6. May God or whatever higher power you believe bless you, Edie! You are an inspiration!

    Posted on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 11:06am
  7. Congratulations Edie!

    Posted on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 11:10am
  8. I wish Thea was there to see it in her lifetime! But she’s looking down with a huge grin on her face, I’m sure!!

    Posted on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 11:15am
  9. She goes down in the same categories as Rosa Parks and Susan B Anthony!

    Posted on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 11:20am
  10. Super sweet! <3

    Posted on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 11:26am
  11. You go girl !

    Posted on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 11:27am
  12. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has just been reversed by the Supreme Court.

    There is still work to be done: http://bit.ly/11ID0aT

    Posted on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 11:40am
  13. Bless her.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 12:53pm