5 Tributes to Honor Edith Windsor, the Woman Who Defeated DOMA

Edith Windsor, the woman who took on the federal Defense of Marriage Act in federal court and fought for marriage equality, has died at age 88. Today, we look back at this remarkable woman’s story and remember her impact on so many.

Personal struggle becomes a public battle for equality

Edith “Edie” Windsor and Thea Spyer married in Canada in 2007, further cementing the life-long commitment they had already established under New York law. At the time, the state would only grant the couple a domestic partnership.

The following video describes Edie and Thea’s special relationship:

When Thea died in 2009, Edie became the sole claimant to her estate. She was required to pay $63,053 in federal estate taxes on her inheritance, due to the fact that the federal Defense of Marriage Act’s Section Three banned the federal government from recognizing same-gender marriages — even in states where they were recognized. It also defined “spouse” as a term relating to marriages between a man and a woman.

Edie filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the narrow definition of “spouse” under DOMA discriminated against her and abridged her constitutional rights for no legitimate government interest. What started off as a battle over tax quickly gained ground as an issue of national importance. After all, DOMA was used to underpin nearly all same-gender marriage bans across the United States.

On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5–4 decision that Section 3 of DOMA is a “deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment.”

That seemingly narrow ruling meant the federal government could begin to roll out these rights to same-gender couples in states where gay marriage was legal. The decision also sent shockwaves throughout the U.S.

Many individuals filed Challenges to state bans almost immediately. One such case was the Obergefell v. Hodges suit that would ultimately see the Supreme Court declare in 2015 that all same-gender marriage bans are unconstitutional.

Clearly, it’s not an overstatement to suggest that with Edie’s death on September 12, we have lost an icon. And the many tributes to Edith serve as a testament to all the lives she touched.

Here are just a few heartfelt tributes to demonstrate how much Edie will be missed:

1. Surviving spouse Judith pays tribute to her amazing wife

Edie found love again and married Judith Kasen at New York City Hall in 2016. In announcing Edith’s death, Judith stated:

The world lost a tiny but tough-as-nails fighter for freedom, justice and equality. Edie was the light of my life. She will always be the light for the LGBTQ community which she loved so much and which loved her right back.

2. The Human Rights Campaign remembers Edie

HRC President Chad Griffin recognized the importance of Edie’s work for LGBT rights:

Edie Windsor is a hero and civil rights icon who pushed our country closer to the promise of a more perfect union. Future generations will learn how she faced down discrimination with courage and defiance, and boldly challenged the United States government to treat her marriage to Thea Spyer equally under the law — as our Constitution guarantees. After Edie Windsor succeeded in defeating the Defense of Marriage Act, she continued to push forward, galvanizing the support of hundreds of thousands of Americans in support of the Obergefell case before the United States Supreme Court in 2015. We join millions across the nation in mourning the loss of Edie Windsor, and share our deepest condolences with her wife, Judith Kasen-Windsor.

3. President Obama Offers His Condolences

Former President Barack Obama issued a full and heartfelt statement regarding Edie’s lawsuit, mentioning how it prompted the Obama administration to join the fight against the Defense of Marriage Act. You can read the full statement below:


 4. Notable politicians and activists celebrate Edie via Twitter

5. Lesbians Who Tech thanks Edie

Following her marriage equality win, Edie would have been forgiven for slowing down. But if she did, her public persona didn’t show it.

Last year, Edith joined forces with the group Lesbians Who Tech to provide scholarships to women who may not have otherwise had the opportunity to pursue the STEM jobs they’d dreamed about. This cause remained dear to Edith’s heart as, she had previously worked as a high-profile coder for computer giant IBM.

In a post to the Lesbians Who Tech Facebook page, the organization recalls Edie’s achievements:

Today we honor and remember our hero, Edie Windsor, who pioneered marriage equality for same-sex couples leading to a landmark ruling. Because of her, our community can enjoy a better quality of life and rights once denied to us. We’ll never forget all that Edie has done for us, our community, and how dedicated she was to showing up and fighting for what’s right. We hope to carry on her legacy and continue to honor her through the Lesbians Who Tech Edie Windsor Scholarship for Queer Women. Edie, you are already missed 

Thank you Edie. May you Rest in Power.

Photo credit: Dave Bledso.


caroline lord
caroline lord11 hours ago

Thank You

Beth M
Beth Myesterday

Thank you for being a strong person, Edie!

Beth M
Beth Myesterday

She should be remember not just as an LGBT activist, but as a human rights defender.

Beth M
Beth Myesterday


Stephanie s
Stephanie s3 days ago

She will always be remembered. Thank you

Danuta W
Danuta W3 days ago

Thanks for posting

Edith B
Edith B4 days ago

Bravo to Edie for fighting the good fight.

Cruel Justice
Cruel J4 days ago

Why aren't there statues made of people like her?

Winn A
Winn A5 days ago

Bless her and all her efforts. An amazing woman.

Clare O
Clare O'Beara5 days ago

More power to you, ladies!