Life

How one woman’s bad reaction to her daughter’s coming out led to nationwide marriage equality

How one woman’s bad reaction to her daughter’s coming out led to nationwide marriage equality
Plaintiff Edith Windsor (right) and her attorney Roberta Kaplan leave the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, March 27, 2013, after the court heard arguments on the Defense of Marriage Act.Photo: Carolyn Kaster, AP

It may seem hard to believe, but one of the sparks behind marriage equality was a mother’s reaction when her daughter came out as a lesbian.

Roberta Kaplan’s mom did not take it well. She started banging her head repeatedly against the wall.

Related: Marriage equality hero Edie Windsor gets the ‘Drunk History’ treatment & it is hilarious

Kaplan, who represented Edie Windsor in the landmark Supreme Court case that overturned part of the Defense of Marriage Act, made sure to stress that her mother has apologized “over and over again” for her reaction.

United States v. Windsor paved the way for a ruling two years later that legalized marriage equality nationwide. It is the only case Kaplan has argued before the Court.

But years before Kaplan stood by Windsor in court, the fierce litigator needed some help as she struggled with depression after her coming out was met with dismay. She sought out a therapist, Thea Spyer, who came out to Kaplan to help her work through her fear of rejection.

Spyer’s death, and the subsequent tax penalty incurred by her wife, spurred the lawsuit. Edie Windsor was Spyer’s wife.

In a lengthy feature on Kaplan’s life and her forthcoming legal battles with President Donald Trump, the Washington Post documents all of the challenges that lie ahead for the renowned LGBTQ activist lawyer. And she’s got a full plate.

Kaplan represents E. Jean Carroll, who filed a defamation lawsuit against Trump after he claimed she was “totally lying” after she accused him of rape, and the president’s lesbian niece, Mary Trump, in her claim that the Trump family defrauded her out of millions of dollars.

“I became the go-to person to sue the president,” Kaplan told the outlet.

“My maternal grandmother always hated a bully,” she added. “One really good job for going after bullies is to be a lawyer.”

With her record of success and determination to do the right thing, at least two Americans’ chances of justice couldn’t be in better hands.

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