Skip to main content

My late wife is thanking you, too

By Edith Windsor, Special to CNN
June 29, 2013 -- Updated 1725 GMT (0125 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 won the Supreme Court case that overturned DOMA
  • Windsor never thought she would be grand marshal of Pride Parade at 84
  • She sued over a tax bill and it led to equality for same-sex married couples
  • She was anguished that her government considered her marriage illegitimate

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

(CNN) -- On Sunday, I will have the honor of serving as grand marshal in the New York City Pride Parade. I have marched in the parade for the last several years carrying a huge rainbow flag. Last year, I was so elated that I danced my way down the street for the entire route.

Before that, my late wife Thea and I, she in her wheelchair, would watch the parade together every year. If someone had told me 50 years ago that I would be the marshal of the New York City Gay Pride Parade in 2013 at the age of 84, I never would have believed it.

Over the past couple of years, many people have asked me, "Why did you decide to sue the United States over a tax bill?" Because the answer is complex, let me give you some of the background.

Edie Windsor, right, talks to the press with her attorney Roberta Kaplan after the Supreme Court ruled against DOMA. \n
Edie Windsor, right, talks to the press with her attorney Roberta Kaplan after the Supreme Court ruled against DOMA.

I lived with and loved my late spouse, Thea Spyer, for more than four decades in love and joy, and in sickness and health, until death did us part. When Thea died in 2009 from a heart condition two years after we were finally married, I was heartbroken.

On a deeply personal level, I felt distressed and anguished that in the eyes of my own government, the woman I had loved and cared for and shared my life with was not my legal spouse, but was considered to be a stranger with no relationship to me.

On a practical level, because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, I was taxed $363,000 in federal estate tax that I would not have had to pay if I had been married to a man named Theo instead of a woman named Thea. Even if I had just met Theo, married him and never even lived with him before he died, the tax would have been zero. So, overwhelmed with a sense of injustice and unfairness, I decided to file a lawsuit to get my money back.

Windsor: We won everything we asked for
Did Supreme Court make history or not?
Watch the best moments from gay day

I lucked out when Robbie Kaplan, a litigation partner at the law firm of Paul Weiss, walked into my life. At a time when the gay organizations that I approached responded with, "It's the wrong time for the movement," Robbie Kaplan said -- as did the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. before her -- "There is no wrong time" to seek justice. She answered my plea, and took me on.

Robbie argued my case in the Supreme Court on March 27 this year. When she argued against DOMA, she was cool and calm and informed and reasoned -- all of which was sustained by her deeply felt passion for equality in all of our lives. And we WON -- all the way.

I have been so honored and humbled to represent not only the thousands of Americans whose lives have been adversely impacted by DOMA, but those whose hopes and dreams have been constricted by that same discriminatory law.

Because of the historic Supreme Court ruling in my case, the federal government can no longer discriminate against the marriages of gay and lesbian Americans. Children born today will grow up in a world without DOMA. And those same children who happen to be gay will be free to love and get married -- as Thea and I did -- but with the same federal benefits, protections and dignity as everyone else.

To all the gay people and their supporters who have cheered me on, thank you. I'm sure that Thea is thanking you, too.

Not only does a much larger portion of the "straight" world see us differently -- as just people who live and love and play with their kids -- but also our own community has come out and seen each other, and loved each other, in a way that makes me courageous and proud and joyous every day.

If I had to survive Thea, what a glorious way to do it.

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
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1653 GMT (0053 HKT)
Jeff Yang calls Ello a wakeup call to Facebook and Twitter, and a sign of hope for fast-rising upstarts Pinterest and Snapchat.
October 1, 2014 -- Updated 1423 GMT (2223 HKT)
Paul Waldman says the Secret Service should examine its procedures to make sure there are no threats to the White House--but without losing the openness so valuable to democracy
October 1, 2014 -- Updated 1455 GMT (2255 HKT)
Jesse Williams says the videotape and 911 call that resulted in police gunning down John Crawford at a Walmart reveals the fatal injustice of racial assumptions
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 2303 GMT (0703 HKT)
Mel Robbins says officials should drop the P.C. pose: The beheading in Oklahoma was not workplace violence. Plenty of evidence shows Alton Nolen was an admirer of ISIS.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1911 GMT (0311 HKT)
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, William Piekos says..
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1911 GMT (0311 HKT)
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, writes William Piekos.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits America, Madeleine Albright says a world roiled by conflict needs these two great democracies to commit to moving their partnership forward
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
John Sutter: Lake Providence, Louisiana, is the parish seat of the "most unequal place in America." And until somewhat recently, the poor side of town was invisible on Google Street View.
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says in the run up to the 2016 election the party faces divisions on its approach to the U.S.'s place in the world
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1419 GMT (2219 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Common Core supporters can't devise a new set of standards and then fail to effectively sell it.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1329 GMT (2129 HKT)
Earlier this month, Kenyans commemorated the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1859 GMT (0259 HKT)
David Wheeler says Colorado students are right to protest curriculum changes that downplays civil disobedience.
September 27, 2014 -- Updated 0158 GMT (0958 HKT)
Sally Kohn says when people click on hacked celebrity photos or ISIS videos, they are encouraging the bad guys.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1155 GMT (1955 HKT)
Loren Bunche says she walked by a homeless man every day and felt bad about it -- until one day she paused to get to know him
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1332 GMT (2132 HKT)
ISIS grabs headlines on social media, but hateful speech is no match for moderate voices, says Nadia Oweidat.
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1233 GMT (2033 HKT)
A new report counts jihadists fighting globally. The verdict? The threat isn't that big, says Peter Bergen.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 2137 GMT (0537 HKT)
Ebola could become the biggest humanitarian disaster in a generation, writes former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1658 GMT (0058 HKT)
ISIS has shocked the world. But will releasing videos of executions backfire? Four experts give their take.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
Eric Holder kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the public that set tone for six turbulent years as top law-enforcement officer.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1309 GMT (2109 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Obama was elected as a war-ending change agent, not a leader who would leave behind for his successor new engagement in Iraq and Syria. Is he as disappointed as the rest of us?
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 0910 GMT (1710 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says the question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into real gains for women
ADVERTISEMENT