Edith Windsor, LGBTQ Rights Activist Who Paved the Way for Same-Sex Marriage, Dies at 88

Edith Windsor, pictured, led the fight for marriage equality in the United States.

Edith Windsor, the main plaintiff in the landmark United States Supreme Court case, United States v. Windsor, died Tuesday in New York City.

Windsor was born June 20, 1929 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The youngest of three children, she grew up in a household deeply affected by the Great Depression. In 1950, Windsor graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from Temple University.

Windsor earned her Master’s degree from NYU in 1957. Shortly thereafter, she accepted at job at IBM, where she would work for the next sixteen years.

After divorcing her husband of one year, Windsor, who recalled having romantic feelings for women as a teenager, began a courtship with Psychologist, Thea Spyer in the early-1960s. In 1967, despite same-sex marriage being illegal in every U.S. state, Spyer proposed to Windsor.

Inspired by the groundbreaking Stonewall Riots in 1969, Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer spent the next forty years advocating for LGBTQ rights.

Following the death of Thea Spyer, Ms. Windsor became the sole beneficiary of her estate. Due to the lack of acknowledgement of same-sex marriage in the U.S., Windsor was forced to pay $363,053 in federal estate taxes. After an attempt to claim the federal estate tax exemption failed, she took legal action, filing a lawsuit against the federal government in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Eventually, United States v. Windsor made its way to the Supreme Court, with its decision becoming a landmark ruling in the fight for marriage equality in 2013.

Windsor is survived by her wife, Judith Kasen.

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