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
September 21, 2014 -- Updated 1750 GMT (0150 HKT)
John Sutter boarded a leaky oyster boat in Connecticut with a captain who can't swim as he set off to get world leaders to act on climate change
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 2322 GMT (0722 HKT)
Is ballet dying? CNN spoke with Isabella Boylston, a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, about the future of the art form.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 2147 GMT (0547 HKT)
Sally Kohn says it's time we take climate change as seriously as we do warfare in the Middle East
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah says an Oklahoma state representative's hateful remarks were rightfully condemned by religious leaders..
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1922 GMT (0322 HKT)
No matter how much planning has gone into U.S. military plans to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Arab public isn't convinced that anything will change, says Geneive Abdo
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1544 GMT (2344 HKT)
President Obama's strategy for destroying ISIS seems to depend on a volley of air strikes. That won't be enough, says Haider Mullick.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Paul Begala says Hillary Clinton has plenty of good reasons not to jump into the 2016 race now
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1501 GMT (2301 HKT)
Scotland decided to trust its 16-year-olds to vote in the biggest question in its history. Americans, in contrast, don't even trust theirs to help pick the county sheriff. Who's right?
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0157 GMT (0957 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1547 GMT (2347 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says the foiled Australian plot shows ISIS is working diligently to taunt the U.S. and its allies.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1958 GMT (0358 HKT)
Young U.S. voters by and large just do not see the midterm elections offering legitimate choices because, in their eyes, Congress has proven to be largely ineffectual, and worse uncaring, argues John Della Volpe
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0158 GMT (0958 HKT)
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1831 GMT (0231 HKT)
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1427 GMT (2227 HKT)
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1448 GMT (2248 HKT)
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 2315 GMT (0715 HKT)
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 0034 GMT (0834 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
ADVERTISEMENT