Edith Windsor, Whose Same-Sex Marriage Fight Led to Landmark Ruling, Dies at 88

Edith Windsor, the gay-rights activist whose landmark Supreme Court case struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013 and granted same-sex married couples federal recognition for the first time and rights to myriad federal benefits, died on Tuesday in Manhattan. She was 88. Her wife, Judith Kasen-Windsor, confirmed the death but did not specify a cause. They were married in 2016.130327103324-03-edith-windsor-horizontal-gallery

Four decades after the Stonewall Inn uprising fueled the fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in America, Ms. Windsor, the widow of a woman with whom she had lived much of her life, became the lead plaintiff in what is widely regarded as the second most important Supreme Court ruling in the national battle over same-sex marriage rights.

The Windsor Decision was limited to 13 states and the District of Columbia. But in 2015, the Supreme Court held   that same-sex couples had a constitutional right to marry anywhere in the nation, with all the protections and privileges of heterosexual couples. Its historic significance was likened to that of Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, which decriminalized gay sex in the United States.


Ms. Windsor had just wanted a tax refund.  But for thousands struggling for gender equality, the stakes went far beyond tax advantages available to married heterosexuals, including Social Security, health care and veterans’ benefits; protection in immigration and bankruptcy cases; and keeping a home after a spouse had died, as well as food stamps, green cards and federal aid to the poor, the elderly and children.

President Barack Obama called an elated Ms. Windsor with his congratulations. She became a national celebrity, a gay-rights matriarch, a grand marshal of New York City’s L.G.B.T. Pride March and a runner-up to Pope Francis for Time magazine’s person of the year in 2013.

Born Edith Schlain in Philadelphia on June 20, 1929, she was the youngest of three children of James and Celia Schlain, Jewish immigrants from Russia who struggled with poverty during the Great Depression. Their candy store and their home above it were quarantined and lost after Edith and a brother contracted polio when she was 2.

Edie, as family and friends called her, read voraciously and was an excellent student in public schools. In high school during World War II, she dated boys but recalled having crushes on girls. In 1946, she enrolled at Temple University. She became engaged to her brother’s friend Saul Windsor, but broke it off when she fell in love with a female classmate.

Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy:  Miss Windsor
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