Edith Windsor, the plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court case that led to the Defense of Marriage Act being overturned in 2013, has passed away in Manhattan at the age of 88. Barack Obama, who was president when the decision in United States v. Windsor was passed, issued a beautiful statement in her memory.
In his statement, Obama acknowledges the “big difference” that such a woman so “small in stature” had not only on his administration but the nation’s history.
“In my second inaugural address, I said that if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. And because people like Edie stood up, my administration stopped defending the so-called Defense of Marriage Act in the courts. The day that the Supreme Court issued its 2013 ruling in United States v. Windsor was a great day for Edie, and a great day for America – a victory for human decency, equality, freedom, and justice. And I called Edie that day to congratulate her.”
When DOMA was struck down, same-sex couples in 13 states and the District of Columbia were granted federal recognition and given the same benefits as heterosexual married couples. The decision paved the way for the 2015 Supreme Court case that ruled that same-sex couples across the nation had a constitutional right to marry “with all the protections and privileges of heterosexual couples.”
Ms. Windsor did not intend to lead the charge for equal marriage rights. Rather, as an 83-year-old widow, she paid over $560,000 in inheritance taxes because her late spouse, Thea, was female. She sued the federal government, citing “differential treatment” for same-sex couples.
Ms. Windsor is survived by her wife, Judith, a label she dedicated her golden years to achieving.
Brian Tyler Cohen is a political writer, actor, and comedy sketch director. He graduated from Lehigh University with a dual degree in English and Business. He currently lives in Los Angeles.