Skip to main content

My late wife is thanking you, too

By Edith Windsor, Special to CNN
updated 1:25 PM EDT, Sat June 29, 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 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
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
updated 12:25 PM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
updated 12:23 AM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
updated 12:11 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
updated 1:24 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
updated 9:06 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
updated 11:54 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
updated 10:34 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
updated 10:43 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat August 30, 2014
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
updated 9:30 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
updated 7:35 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT