Edith Windsor, a plaintiff in one of two landmark Supreme Court cases which legalized same-sex marriage in the United States, died this afternoon at her Manhattan home, her wife, Judith Kasen-Windsor, said.
Windsor was 88 years old. Windsor, had sued the IRS for the right to claim a spousal exemption when her previous wife of four decades, Thea Spyer, died. Windsor and Spyer were legally married in Canada, but the tax agency held to its definition of marriage as one man and one woman.
The case became part of history when the high court ruled in Windsor’s favor. In its 2015 Windsor v. U.S. decision, the majority held that gay and lesbian couples had a constitutional right to marry (or have their marriages abroad recognized) anywhere in the country. That case, and the adjoining Obergefell v. Hodges matter, made marriage equality a nationwide reality.
The decision made Windsor an international heroine. She was chosen as the Grand Marshal of New York City’s annual Pride March in 2015, and then-President Obama personally congratulated her on the legal victory. In the years before her death, Windsor continued her work as an ardent LGBTQ rights advocate.
The night of the famous ruling, Windsor addressed a crowd that had gathered outside her Greenwich Village apartment, not far from the iconic Stonewall Inn. “We have a history: beginning to see each other with Stonewall, when a whole new community began to recognize itself; the AIDS crisis — we’d always been separated. Gays and lesbians, separated!”
Windsor is survived only by her wife, whom she met in 2015 at a marriage equality rally. They owned homes in the Village and in the Long Island community of Southampton. No funeral plans have yet been announced.