Skip to main content

Edith Windsor: My late wife's spirit was with us in court

By Edith Windsor, Special to CNN
March 28, 2013 -- Updated 1827 GMT (0227 HKT)
Edith (Edie) Windsor, on the right, holds hands with Thea Clara Spyer the day of their wedding, after 40 years together, on May 22, 2007. By then, Spyer was suffering from multiple sclerosis and could move only one finger. Edith (Edie) Windsor, on the right, holds hands with Thea Clara Spyer the day of their wedding, after 40 years together, on May 22, 2007. By then, Spyer was suffering from multiple sclerosis and could move only one finger.
HIDE CAPTION
Love through the years
Love through the years
Love through the years
Love through the years
Love through the years
Love through the years
Love through the years
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Edith Windsor: I never thought I would be an 83-year-old "out" lesbian suing the government
  • She and Thea Spyer married in Canada, but DOMA means U.S. doesn't recognize it
  • Windsor: DOMA is painful and wrong and Thea would want me to stand up for our marriage
  • She says marriage equality would be "best possible final chapter in our love story"

Editor's note: Edith Windsor, 83, is the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act.

(CNN) -- On Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments in my case challenging the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, widely known as DOMA. I was honored and humbled by the opportunity to have my case considered by our nation's highest court. I have also been overwhelmed by the love and support I have received from people all across the country.

To be honest, I never could have imagined that this day would come -- the day that I would be "out" as an 83-year-old lesbian suing the federal government.

My late wife, Thea Spyer, was, and is, the love of my life. Although we couldn't live openly for much of our relationship, we became engaged in 1967 with a circular diamond brooch that symbolized the rings we weren't able to wear on our fingers. And we stayed engaged for the next 40 years, caring for each other, sharing all the joys and sorrows that came our way.

Victory years after longtime partner's death

Edith Windsor
Edith Windsor

We lived through good times -- with jobs that we loved, great friends and a lot of dancing. But we also depended on each other for strength through the vicissitudes of aging and illness.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



In 1977, Thea was diagnosed with progressive multiple sclerosis, which became debilitating over time. First, she had to use one cane, then two crutches, then a wheelchair. In Thea's last years, she was quadriplegic. We were lucky that the MS never affected her brilliant mind or her cognition, and that she was able to continue seeing patients as a psychologist until the day that she died.

In 2007, we learned from Thea's doctors that she had only one year to live. When we realized that we were running out of time, we decided to marry in Canada. That marriage was recognized in our home state of New York. We wanted to be married for the same reason most people want to marry: to publicly and legally express our love and commitment to one another.

When our wedding announcement ran in The New York Times, we heard from hundreds of people from every stage of our lives -- playmates and schoolmates, colleagues, friends and relatives -- pouring out love and congratulations because we were married. That's why marriage is different -- it's a magic word recognized by everyone as a demonstration of commitment and love.

Battle over same-sex marriage
Battle over Defense of Marriage Act
Orman: Marriage inequality costs U.S

When my beautiful Thea died two years later, I was overcome with grief. Over the next month, I was hospitalized with a heart attack, and, in the midst of my grief, I realized that the federal government would not recognize our marriage. DOMA restricts federal marriage benefits and state-to-state recognition of marriages only to unions between a man and a woman. Because of DOMA, I was required to pay $363,000 in federal estate taxes that I would not have had to pay had I been married to a man instead of Thea.

This was not only painful, it was wrong. I knew that Thea would want me to stand up for our marriage -- and for so many other gay couples and their families who are harmed by this unjust law. I believe that all marriages should be treated equally by the federal government in accordance with the Constitution.

We won our case in two lower courts, and have now made it all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States -- which is a monumental feat in itself.

I know that Thea's spirit was with us Wednesday at the oral argument. But our journey is not yet over. If, through my case, our story can help to ensure that the federal government treats all marriages equally, that will be the best possible final chapter in our love story.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Edith Windsor.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1925 GMT (0325 HKT)
Maria Cardona says Republicans should appreciate President Obama's executive action on immigration.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
Van Jones says the Hunger Games is a more sweeping critique of wealth inequality than Elizabeth Warren's speech.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 2329 GMT (0729 HKT)
obama immigration
David Gergen: It's deeply troubling to grant legal safe haven to unauthorized immigrants by executive order.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0134 GMT (0934 HKT)
Charles Kaiser recalls a four-hour lunch that offered insight into the famed director's genius.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 2012 GMT (0412 HKT)
The plan by President Obama to provide legal status to millions of undocumented adults living in the U.S. leaves Republicans in a political quandary.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0313 GMT (1113 HKT)
Despite criticism from those on the right, Obama's expected immigration plans won't make much difference to deportation numbers, says Ruben Navarette.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
As new information and accusers against Bill Cosby are brought to light, we are reminded of an unshakable feature of American life: rape culture.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 2256 GMT (0656 HKT)
When black people protest against police violence in Ferguson, Missouri, they're thought of as a "mob."
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 2011 GMT (0411 HKT)
Lost in much of the coverage of ISIS brutality is how successful the group has been at attracting other groups, says Peter Bergen.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Do recent developments mean that full legalization of pot is inevitable? Not necessarily, but one would hope so, says Jeffrey Miron.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
We don't know what Bill Cosby did or did not do, but these allegations should not be easily dismissed, says Leslie Morgan Steiner.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1519 GMT (2319 HKT)
Does Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas have the influence to bring stability to Jerusalem?
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1759 GMT (0159 HKT)
Even though there are far fewer people being stopped, does continued use of "broken windows" strategy mean minorities are still the target of undue police enforcement?
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 0258 GMT (1058 HKT)
The truth is, we ran away from the best progressive persuasion voice in our times because the ghost of our country's original sin still haunts us, writes Cornell Belcher.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 2141 GMT (0541 HKT)
Children living in the Syrian city of Aleppo watch the sky. Not for signs of winter's approach, although the cold winds are already blowing, but for barrel bombs.
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
We're stuck in a kind of Middle East Bermuda Triangle where messy outcomes are more likely than neat solutions, says Aaron David Miller.
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 1216 GMT (2016 HKT)
In the midst of the fight against Islamist rebels seeking to turn the clock back, a Kurdish region in Syria has approved a law ordering equality for women. Take that, ISIS!
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 0407 GMT (1207 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says President Obama would be justified in acting on his own to limit deportations
ADVERTISEMENT