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Edith Windsor, same-sex marriage advocate, dies at 88 – Business Insider

Edith Windsor

AP Photo/Richard

NEW YORK (AP) — Edith Windsor, a widow who brought a Supreme
Court case that that struck down parts of a federal law that
banned same-sex marriage and led to federal recognition for gay
spouses, died Tuesday. She was 88.

Windsor died in New York, said her lawyer, Roberta Kaplan. The
cause of death wasn’t given, but Windsor had struggled with heart
issues for years. In 2009, she had an attack of stress
cardiomyopathy, also known as broken heart syndrome, that was so
bad that her heart stopped.

“The world lost a tiny but tough-as-nails fighter for freedom,
justice and equality,” said her current spouse, Judith

Windsor’s first spouse, Thea Spyer, died in 2009. The women had
married legally in Canada in 2007 after spending more than 40
years together.

Windsor sued the federal government after Spyer’s death, saying
its definition of marriage as a relationship between a man and a
woman prevented her from getting a marital deduction on Spyer’s
estate. That meant she faced a huge tax bill that heterosexual
couples would not have.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in June 2013 that the provision
in the law was unconstitutional, and that legally married
same-sex couples are entitled to the same federal benefits that
heterosexual couples receive. The opinion became the basis for
the wave of federal court rulings that struck down state marriage
bans and led to a 2015 Supreme Court ruling giving same-sex
couples the right to marry.

“She will go down in the history books as a true American hero,”
Kaplan said. Anthony Romero, executive director of the American
Civil Liberties Union, called Windsor “one of this country’s
great civil rights pioneers.”

“One simply cannot write the history of the gay rights movement
without reserving immense credit and gratitude for Edie Windsor,”
Romero said.

Gay Pride Parade, Edith Windsor, DOMA, gay marriageRobert Libetti/Business

At the time, Windsor said she was “honored,” ”humbled” and
“overjoyed” when the decision came down.

Windsor was born in Philadelphia and moved to Manhattan in the
early 1950s after a brief marriage to a man that ended after she
told him she was gay.

She received a master’s degree in mathematics from New York
University in 1957 and went to work for IBM in senior technical
and management positions.

Spyer came into her life in 1963, and they became a couple two
years later.

In court documents, Windsor said she told Spyer, “‘If it still
feels this goofy joyous, I’d like us to spend the rest of our
lives together.’ And we did.'”

Concerned that an engagement ring would bring unwanted attention
to her sexual orientation from colleagues at IBM, Spyer gave
Windsor a diamond brooch.

“Our choice not to wear traditional engagement rings was just one
of many ways in which Thea and I had to mold our lives to make
our relationship invisible,” Windsor said in court documents.

“We both faced pressures not only in the workplace and in society
at large, but also from family and friends,” she added. “Like
countless other same-sex couples, we engaged in a constant
struggle to balance our love for one another and our desire to
live openly and with dignity, on the one hand, with our fear of
disapproval and discrimination from others on the other.”

Spyer was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1977, and her
physical condition deteriorated over the decades. The women
married in Canada when they realized they might not be living
when New York state legalized same-sex marriage, which it did in


Associated Press writer Jennifer Peltz contributed to this

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