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 9:05 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
updated 3:38 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 04: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell walks the sidelines prior to the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field on September 4, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Martha Pease says the NFL commissioner shouldn't be judge and jury on player wrongdoing.
updated 9:15 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
It's time for a much needed public reckoning over U.S. use of torture, argues Donald P. Gregg.
updated 8:25 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Peter Bergen says UK officials know the identity of the man who killed U.S. journalists and a British aid worker.
updated 7:28 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Joe Torre and Esta Soler say much has been achieved since a landmark anti-violence law was passed.
updated 4:55 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
David Wheeler wonders: If Scotland votes to secede, can America take its place and rejoin England?
updated 8:41 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Jane Stoever: Society must grapple with a culture in which 1 in 3 teen girls and women suffer partner violence.
updated 4:36 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking recently said the world as we know it could be obliterated instantaneously. Meg Urry says fear not.
updated 6:11 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
Bill Clinton's speech accepting the Democratic nomination for president in 1992 went through 22 drafts. But he always insisted on including a call to service.
updated 6:18 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
Joe Amon asks: What turns a few cases of disease into thousands?
updated 1:21 PM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Sally Kohn says bombing ISIS will worsen instability in Iraq and strengthen radical ideology in terrorist groups.
updated 6:31 PM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Analysts weigh in on the president's plans for addressing the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
updated 9:27 AM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Artist Prune Nourry's project reinterprets the terracotta warriors in an exhibition about gender preference in China.
updated 9:36 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
The Apple Watch is on its way. Jeff Yang asks: Are we ready to embrace wearables technology at last?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT