Edith Windsor And Thea Spyer’s Great American Love Story

You probably already know that Edith Windsor is the history making plaintiff in today’s Supreme Court case, but how much do you know about the whirlwind romance that started it all? Grab a box of tissues.

1. After divorcing her husband, Edith asked her friends to, “Take me where the lesbians are.”

As she describes it, when she went to the movies, she secretly identified with movie star Dick Powell, not with his co-star Ruby Keeler. After less than a year of marriage, she asked her husband for a divorce.

2. She went back to school at NYU to gain a mathematics degree and went on to work for IBM.

She had originally graduated from Temple University.

3. The first night Edith met Thea Spyer they “danced a hole through the bottom of one of Edie’s stockings.”

They met in 1963 at Portofino, a New York restaurant where lesbians felt free to openly congregate.

4. Thea was her intellectual match, a psychology Ph.D from Adelphi University.

5. After first meeting, it would take them 2 years to start dating.

6. Thea gave her a circle pin adorned with diamonds instead of an engagement ring.

She proposed in classical fashion, dropping down to one knee and asking for Edith’s hand in marriage.

She still wears it today.

Eduardo Munoz / Reuters

7. They were globetrotters, traveling as often as they could.

Thea is pictured on a trip to Suriname. The pair traveled to Europe as often as possible.

9. They bought a rental in the Hamptons in order to have a place of their own to escape to.

11. Their love never waned over 42 years…

For more than four decades, they lived together in an apartment on Fifth Avenue near Washington Square.

…quite a long engagement.

12. A love story so cinematic, it was made into a feature length film:

The award-winning 2009 documentary film, Edie and Thea: A Very Long Engagement by Susan Muska and Gréta Olafsdóttir.

13. Thea was diagnosed at 45 with multiple sclerosis. Edie took early retirement to become her full-time caregiver.

As her condition worsened Thea was restricted to crutches, and later a wheelchair. By 2002, Spyer was diagnosed with a cardiovascular condition called aortic stenosis. At that point, Spyer was quadriplegic and got around by using an adjusted mouse to maneuver her wheelchair.

Dressed up as newlyweds for Halloween:

15. When Thea’s doctor told her she had under a year to live, they flew to Toronto to be legally wed.

On May 22, 2007, Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer were legally married by Canada’s first out gay judge, Justice Harvey Brownstone.

16. Thea passed away only 21 months after the wedding.

Not only did she have to cope with Spyer’s death, she was also was forced to pay more than $350,000 in federal estate taxes because the federal government didn’t recognize her marriage to Spyer.

17. Edith refers to the years before they were married as, “just dancing”.

18. Edie had a heart attack a month later. She recovered to fight the injustice she sees in the federal law that does not recognize her marriage.

Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

19. Edith has been an outspoken gay rights activist all her life.

She will serve as Grand Marshal of NYC LGBT Pride this year.

20. She has a life-size photo of Thea in their apartment, which she admits she sometimes leans up against to tell her about the progress of the case.

Richard Drew / AP

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Sarah Karlan is the Deputy LGBT Editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Sarah Karlan at
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