Widely recognized as “Pride Day” in the United States, today is is the 47th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. In honor of this momentous day, here is a quick test: Who is Edith Windsor? If you don’t know her, you should.
Edith “Edie” Windsor is one of the titan’s in LGBTQ rights movement. She is the “Windsor” in, United States vs. Windsor. Edie sued the U.S. Federal Government because when her partner of 42 died in 2007, Edie faced a crushing estate tax bill that she otherwise wouldn’t have had to pay if the federal government had recognized her marriage, New York State recognized their marriage as legal, but not the federal government.
United States vs. Windsor was decided three years ago and the decision was published on June 26, 2013. I didn’t know who Edie was on that day, but she changed my life and my family’s as well. In 2012, Maryland – where I live – passed marriage equality. We were the first state where the people of the state voted to grant marriage equality to everyone. The people of Washington State also voted to give everyone marriage equality on the same night, but our polls closed 3 hours before theirs. Not that it matters. On that November night in 2012, the people of the states of Washington and Maryland did what no other state had done – they came together as a group and said, everyone deserved the same marriage rights under the law.
Unfortunately, it was only half a loaf. Having the state recognize your right to get married didn’t affect the myriad of benefits granted by the federal government. Things like Family Medical Leave, Social Security, Federal Pensions, Military Pensions, and as Edith learned, Federal Taxes were unaffected by what the people of Washington and Maryland had done.
Enter Edith Windsor. Edie met her wife, Thea Spyer, in 1967. When they met, they couldn’t get engaged, or even acknowledge they were a couple. It took forty years being together before they could get married, and they did in May 2007. Less than two years later, Thea died. Dr. Thea Spyer died in February of 2009 leaving a giant whole in Edie’s life and heart.
Then with all the compassion of Donald Trump, the IRS dropped the other shoe. Because they weren’t ‘really’ married, Edie owed three hundred and some odd thousand dollars in taxes as result of an estate tax. You see, all those savings they put away together didn’t count as together in the eyes of the law. To the IRS, they were roommate and nothing more.
God bless Edie for finding the strength to fight back. I don’t know if I could if Mike had passed away. But she did. She said it wasn’t right. They were NOT just roommates, they were legally married. She demanded the government treat her the same as every other tax-paying citizen. She told the court her marriage was every bit as valid as anyone else’s. And she was right.
The Supreme Court agreed with Edie and when she won, we all won.
Prior to the Windsor decision, Mike and I had made vague plans to get married. We knew we needed to, if only for ‘lil q’s sake, but without all the federal benefits, it wasn’t that pressing. June 26, 2013, put a bit of giddyap in our behinds. Suddenly there were a host of benefits we’d never been able to access. We moved up the wedding and got married on September 27, 2013. (I can’t believe has little ‘lil q was back then)
Two years after United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court did away with marriage inequality and ruled all states everywhere had to allow same sex couples to wed. In truth, it had become a foregone conclusion by that point. Once the federal government agreed to accept any valid marriage, and same sex couples could marry in more than a dozen states, the hold out states were going to lose.
Every journey begins with a single step. I won’t say Edie is solely responsible for marriage equality or even that she took the first step. There were too many others who fought to get us to this place. But her journey with Thea was a giant step on that path.
If you get a chance, take a moment to poke around Edie’s website and leave her a message thanking her for having the courage and strength to fight for everyone even with the pain of her loss. She is a remarkable woman and she will leave us with a remarkable legacy.
Thank you, Edie! And Happy Pride!
Andrew Q. Gordon wrote his first story back when yellow legal pads, ball point pens were common and a Smith Corona correctable typewriter was considered high tech. Adapting with technology, he now takes his MacBook somewhere quiet when he wants to write.
He currently lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his partner of twenty-one years, their young daughter and dog. In addition to dodging some very self-important D.C. ‘insiders’, Andrew uses his commute to catch up on his reading. When not working or writing, he enjoys soccer, high fantasy, baseball and seeing how much coffee he can drink in a day.
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