Edith Windsor, the plaintiff in the Defense of Marriage Act Supreme Court case, said Wednesday that after a two-and-a-half year fight to overturn the law, gay couples had “won everything we asked and hoped for.”
“Wow,” said Windsor, 83, standing before at least 200 supporters packed into a small room on the west side of Manhattan’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. So many people attended the Windsor press conference that a crew of supporters had to move two floors up in the same building to watch the event by live stream.
Windsor, often interrupted by cheers and chants from the crowd, commended the Supreme Court’s long-awaited ruling Wednesday morning on both DOMA, which was struck down, and California’s Proposition 8 marriage amendment, which was dismissed by the court, effectively reinstating same-sex marriage in the state.
Asked if she had expected the win, Windsor said, “No, I prepared three speeches: One was total win; one was as-applied, which was a possibility; and one was a total loss,” she said. “I did not allow myself to assume we would win. I thought we had every right to win — I thought our arguments were sound every one else’s were insane.”
Windsor and her partner of 40 years, Thea Spyer, married in 2007. When Spyer died after a battle with advanced multiple sclerosis, Windsor was asked to pay $363,000 in estate taxes, prompting her in part to launch her case. “I would not have had to pay had I been married to a man named Theo,” said Windsor.
“Over the past two and a half years, many people have asked me, ‘Why did you decide to sue the United States of America over a tax bill,’” she added. “On a deeply personal level, I felt distressed and anguished that in the eyes of my government, the woman I had loved and cared for and shared my life with was not my legal spouse.”
Windsor’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan, introduced her client as a “hero to millions of Americans,” comparing her to historical civil rights heroes such as Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, and Harvey Milk. “Edie has lit a torch of freedom for future generations of Americans to follow,” Kaplan said.
When questioned about the comparison, Windsor said, “It makes me feel incredibly proud and humbled… like, wow, do I deserve this? It is an accident that history put me here,” adding that she was “just proud, very proud.”
“If I had to survive Thea, what a glorious way to do it, as she would be so pleased,” Windsor said before closing. “Thank you all.”