Gay widow Edith Windsor wins case as court strikes down Defense of Marriage Act

Edith Windsor addresses reporters from the downtown office of the NYCLU.

Wearing a diamond brooch her wife, Thea Spyer, gave to her when she proposed in 1967, Edith Windsor told reporters she will continue to fight, even after a federal appeals court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act Thursday.

This is the second ruling by a federal appellate court that deems DOMA unconstitutional for violating the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. Legal experts predict the Supreme Court will soon take the issue.

For Edith “Edie” Windsor, the ruling marked a victory in a legal battle three years in the making. When Spyer died in 2009, she left her assets, including the New York City apartment the couple shared, to Windsor. Though the couple were legally married in Canada in 2007, Windsor was forced to pay $363,000 in federal estate taxes, though the fee would have been exempt for a widow of a straight marriage.

Thursday’s ruling means Windsor will be re-paid that money from the government.

“I’m sure she is here with me in spirit and would have been so proud to see how far we’ve come,” Windsor said of her late wife. “I’m thrilled, I can’t wait till the next phase.”

“Treating married New Yorkers like Edie and Thea like strangers under the eyes of the law is unfair, unjust, unconstitutional, disrespectful and plain wrong,” NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman said. “We celebrate today knowing we are one step closer to fulfilling the dream of real 100 percent relationship equality here in New York.”

James Essex, director of the LGBT project at the ACLU said Windor’s case is one of four that ask the Supreme Court to rule on DOMA.

“The Supreme Court cant just let it sit there because they can’t have a world where DOMA is unconstitutional in the northeast part of the United States and constitutional everywhere else,” Essex said. “This is the classic context of where the Supreme Court is going to take this issue.” 


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