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
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
Mike Downey says the Giants and the Royals both lived through long title droughts. What teams are waiting for a win?
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1832 GMT (0232 HKT)
Mel Robbins says if a man wants to talk to a woman on the street, he should follow 3 basic rules.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2103 GMT (0503 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say more terrorism plots are disrupted by families than by NSA surveillance.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2125 GMT (0525 HKT)
Time magazine has clearly kicked up a hornet's nest with its downright insulting cover headlined "Rotten Apples," says Donna Brazile.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2055 GMT (0455 HKT)
Leroy Chiao says the failure of the launch is painful but won't stop the trend toward commercializing space.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Timothy Stanley: Though Jeb Bush has something to offer, another Bush-Clinton race would be a step backward.
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
Errol Louis says forced to choose between narrow political advantage and the public good, the governors showed they are willing to take the easy way out over Ebola.
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Eric Liu says with our family and friends and neighbors, each one of us must decide what kind of civilization we expect in the United States. It's our responsibility to set tone and standards, with our laws and norms
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Sally Kohn says the UNC report highlights how some colleges exploit student athletes while offering little in return
October 26, 2014 -- Updated 1904 GMT (0304 HKT)
Terrorists don't represent Islam, but Muslims must step up efforts to counter some of the bigotry within the world of Islam, says Fareed Zakaria
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Scott Yates says extending Daylight Saving Time could save energy, reduce heart attacks and get you more sleep
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 0032 GMT (0832 HKT)
Reza Aslan says the interplay between beliefs and actions is a lot more complicated than critics of Islam portray
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1119 GMT (1919 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says control of the Senate will be decided by a few close contests
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1212 GMT (2012 HKT)
The response of some U.S. institutions that should know better to Ebola has been anything but inspiring, writes Idris Ayodeji Bello.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1312 GMT (2112 HKT)
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
ADVERTISEMENT