Iconic LGBTQ+ Figures: Edith Windsor

Learn about iconic LGBTQ+ figures that helped shaped U.S. history, politics, and culture.

If you remember the moment when same-sex marriage became legal in the U.S., then you might remember about Edith “Edie” Windsor, the key figure in this historic moment.

Windsor, an early computer programmer and executive, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on June 20, 1929. She was well known in queer spaces around New York and had a long-time partner of 40 years, Thea Spyer. Spyer proposed to Windsor in 1967, but it would take 40 years for them to get married.

In 2007, doctors told Syper she had less than a year to live, and since New York had not legalized same-sex marriages, the couple married in Canada. Spyer passed in 2009, leaving Windsor the sole beneficiary of Spyer’s estate. Windsor was required to pay over $360,000 in federal taxes on her inheritance, but had federal law recognized her marriage, she would have qualified for unlimited spousal deduction and not have to pay any taxes.

In 2010, Windsor filed a lawsuit against the federal government on grounds that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) discriminated against legally married same-sex couples. Section 3 of DOMA reserved the term “spouse” for heterosexual couples. The US Supreme Court ruled that Section 3 was unconstitutional in 2013, setting the stage for same-sex marriage to become legal in 2015.