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
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0242 GMT (1042 HKT)
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2113 GMT (0513 HKT)
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1023 GMT (1823 HKT)
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 0639 GMT (1439 HKT)
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2020 GMT (0420 HKT)
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1456 GMT (2256 HKT)
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 2253 GMT (0653 HKT)
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2123 GMT (0523 HKT)
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
ADVERTISEMENT