New York remembers equal marriage hero with Edie Windsor Day

Edie Windsor

Edie Windsor, the activist who fought for equal marriage before the Supreme Court, will be remembered in New York with ‘Edie Windsor Day’.

New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a proclamation honouring the June 20 birthday of Windsor, who passed away in September 2017, as an annual day in her honour.

Windsor, a lifelong New Yorker, was integral to striking down parts of the US-wide Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA) that banned federal recognition of same-sex marriages until 2013.

The case that carries her name, United States v. Windsor, is considered one of the biggest landmarks on the path to LGBT equality, laying the groundwork for a subsequent Supreme Court ruling in 2015 case Obergefell v. Hodges that brought equal marriage in all 50 states.

Edith Windsor attends the New York City Gay Pride 2017 march for the final time on June 25, 2017 in New York City. (Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty)

Governor Cuomo said: “Edie was an iconic New Yorker who shaped history and taught us that love always wins.

“Proclaiming her birthday as Edie Windsor Day is a fitting way to salute a true New York hero whose strength, perseverance, and conviction in the face of adversity continues to inspire all of us.”

The proclamation says: “All New Yorkers are proud to join in honouring the life and legacy of Edie Windsor, a pioneer and icon in the LGBTQ movement who inspired New Yorkers and people around the world through her courage, leadership, and tireless commitment to ensuring equality and justice; and

“Throughout her extraordinary life, Edie broke down barriers – in her professional career working with early mainframe computers, having achieved the highest technical position of Senior Systems Programmer at IBM and, through her personal drive as a powerful and fearless voice for the LGBTQ community in New York and across the nation.

“Her landmark victory in United States v. Windsor marked a watershed in the movement to secure marriage rights for same-sex couples and paved the way for nationwide marriage equality.

“Edie’s strength, perseverance, and conviction in the face of adversity has made her a hero to all New Yorkers and an invaluable inspiration to countless others in the fight for equality.

“June 20, 2018 marks what would have been Edie’s 89th birthday, and all New Yorkers are proud to join in honouring and remembering Edie’s extraordinary life, her legacy of groundbreaking leadership, and her lasting contributions to equality everywhere.”

Edith Windsor speaks onstage during The Trevor Project TrevorLIVE NYC 2017 at Marriott Marquis Times Square on June 19, 2017 in New York City. (Jamie McCarthy/Getty for The Trevor Project)

The activist spent more than 40 years with her partner Thea Spyer, waiting most of their lives for legal recognition.

In 2007, after Ms Spyer was diagnosed with a terminal illness, the pair travelled to Canada to marry.

However, even after Thea’s tragic death, the US government refused to recognise that their marriage even existed.

After being handed a massive tax bill for her wife’s estate – which a straight widower would be exempt from – the grieving Windsor filed a lawsuit challenging the Defence of Marriage Act, which banned federal recognition of same-sex unions.

Edith Windsor acknowledges her supporters as she leaves the Supreme Court March 27, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty )

The case rumbled through the courts, and in 2013 made it before the Supreme Court of the United States.

With the support of the Obama administration the court struck down DOMA, setting precedent which would lead it to bring marriage equality to all 50 states just two years later.

Windsor died aged 88 in September 2017. Former President Barack Obama paid tribute to her incredible work, having met her on a number of occasions at LGBT events.

He said: “America’s long journey towards equality has been guided by countless small acts of persistence, and fuelled by the stubborn willingness of quiet heroes to speak out for what’s right.

“Few were as small in stature as Edie Windsor — and few made as big a difference to America.”