Edie Windsor

1929 - 2017

Trailblazer

Edie Windsor did not set out to make history – the opportunity, like a great love of her life, found her instead. Trailblazing, however, came naturally.

Photo by Brad Barket, Getty Images
Edie Windsor
Biography

Born in 1929 in Philadelphia, Windsor became an accomplished computer programmer after graduating from New York University in 1957. She hid her sexuality from her employer, IBM, for 16 years, and took an early retirement when the company moved her unit out of New York.


Her second career as an LGBTQ activist was inspired in part by her longtime partner, Thea Spyer, to whom she was engaged for more than 40 years. The two were married in Canada in 2007 – but when Spyer died two years later, Windsor was not entitled to the benefits and protections of marriage as Spyer’s surviving spouse. She found herself owing hundreds of thousands of dollars in estate taxes.


Windsor’s successful lawsuit against the federal government helped pave the way for legalizing same-sex marriage across the United States. She went on to marry Judith Kasen in 2016 and died at age 88 in New York City.


In 2018, Governor Cuomo proclaimed June 20 as Edie Windsor Day in New York State as a tribute to her legacy.

Windsor’s lawsuit challenged the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which legally recognized only opposite-sex marriages. In June 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Windsor that DOMA was unconstitutional, calling it a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment.

 

 

Edie Windsor outside the US Supreme Court 2013
Edie Windsor mobbed by journalists and supporters outside the U.S. Supreme Court, 2013. Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images