Skip to main content

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

By Edith Windsor, Special to CNN
updated 2:27 PM EDT, Thu March 28, 2013
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
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Alexander Motyl says as Russian President Putin snarled at Ukraine, his foreign minister was signing a conciliatory accord with the West. Whatever the game, the accord is a major stand down by Russia
updated 8:29 AM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Les Abend says at every turn, the stowaway teen defied the odds of discovery and survival. What pilot would have thought to look for a person in the wheel well?
updated 6:47 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Q & A with artist Rachel Sussman on her new book of photographs, "The Oldest Living Things in the World."
updated 3:58 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Martin Blaser says the overuse of antibiotics threatens to deplete our bodies of "good" microbes, leaving us vulnerable to an unstoppable plague--an "antibiotic winter"
updated 1:37 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
John Sutter asks: Is it possible to eat meat in modern-day America and consider yourself an environmentalist without being a hypocrite?
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Sally Kohn notes that Meb Keflezighi rightly was called an American after he won the Boston Marathon, but his status in the U.S. once was questioned
updated 8:56 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Denis Hayes and Scott Denman say on this Earth Day, the dawn of the Solar Age is already upon us and the Atomic Age of nuclear power is in decline
updated 4:36 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Retired Coast Guard officer James Loy says a ship captain bears huge responsibility.
updated 1:08 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Peter Bergen says the latest strikes are part of an aggressive U.S. effort to target militants, including a bomb maker
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Cynthia Lummis and Peter Welch say 16 agencies carry out national intelligence, and their budgets are top secret. We need to know how they are spending our money.
updated 8:35 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Julian Zelizer says President Obama knows more than anyone that he has much at stake in the midterm elections.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Eric Sanderson says if you really want to strike a blow for the environment--and your health--this Earth Day, work to get cars out of cities and create transportation alternatives
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Bruce Barcott looks at the dramatic differences in marijuana laws in Colorado and Louisiana
updated 4:47 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery supports the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
updated 2:17 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
updated 1:52 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
updated 2:25 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
updated 6:26 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
updated 8:50 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT