Edith Windsor, the LGBT rights activist whose Supreme Court win “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,” has died at the age of 88, according to her wife, Judith Kasen-Windsor.
For Windsor, who married her first wife in Canada in 2007, it all started over a tax return. After Thea Speyer, her first wife, died in 2009, Windsor inherited her estate. However, the IRS denied her “the unlimited spousal exemption from federal estate taxes available to married heterosexuals” and ordered her to pay taxes.
Windsor sued, instead saying “that the law, by recognizing only marriages between a man and a woman, unconstitutionally singled out same-sex marriage partners for “differential treatment.” The court ruled in her favor and then later ruled that same-sex couples had the right to marry anywhere in the country, not just in states that had already legalized it:
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.
Like countless others, Ms. Windsor had been snared by the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which barred same-sex married couples from federal recognition as “spouses,” effectively excluding them from federal benefits available to married heterosexuals — precisely 1,138 benefits, according to a count by the Government Accountability Office, Congress’s fiscal watchdog agency.
Head over to the Times to read Windor’s complete obituary, which covers her decades of activism and offers a glimpse of a life well-lived.
(Via New York Times)