Open Letter to Edie Windsor
During Pride Month, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, I want to send out thanks and love to all the brave souls and freedom fighters who paved the way for greater equality, greater protection and equal marriage for LGBTQ+ communities.
One of my heros is the late Edie Windsor - the lesbian woman who took her case all the way up to the Supreme Court in 2013, fighting to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) - which was a United States Law that narrowly defined marriage being between a man and a woman. Because DOMA existed, same-sex marriages didn’t have equal protection or rights under the United States Government. When Edie’s wife Thea died, she was slapped with a huge estate tax bill for her inheritance - something that straight married couples would never be subjected to. Edie was like, NO, there’s got to be a better way. So she sued the United States, seeking that same-sex marriages are federally recognized and have the same benefits under the law. Things like being able to be considered "family" if you have to visit them in the hospital or filing married jointly on taxes (married couples get nice deductions for being married) and not having to pay estate taxes if one of them dies. She had a strong case, but there was a LOT of opposition.
I had a VERY vested interest in this case. I got engaged in 2009 to my Canadian fiance who lived in Canada. We were in this crazy long distance engagement for 5 years between New York and Canada hoping the laws would change and gay marriage would be legalized. In 2011 the State of New York legalized gay marriage, which still didn’t help our case because in order to get a green card and reside in the US, same-sex marriages needed to be Federally recognized. So we waited for years.
Edie Windsor’s case became our loophole. If Edie won her case and DOMA was struck down, same-sex marriages would have equal protection under US laws, meaning the chance to get a green card would be possible. It felt like our entire future as a couple rested on the Supreme Court’s decision on this case.
In April of 2013 I got the rare opportunity to meet Edie when I interviewed her at an event for the LGBT center in NYC. Her case was in the process of being deliberated with the Supreme Court and I told her, "If you win your case, I can get married." I told her about Stuart living in Canada and that if she wins her case Stuart can get a green card and move to the US. I don’t think she realized the magnitude of benefits that would be felt by millions if she won her case. It was a rush to meet her and tell her that. Literally, the case she brought against the US could ultimately change the course of my life with my future husband. And it did.
The Supreme Court ruled in her favor, striking down the Defense of Marriage act on June 26, 2013. Stuart and I were on Facetime between New York and Canada that morning refreshing the SCOTUS website as the verdicts were delivered. When we got the news that DOMA would be lifted, we were sobbing. Everything changed and we began plans for our wedding and resuming our lives under the same roof.
Edie was this bright spot in our lives, a person who touched us in a very direct way. I had it in my mind that I was going to write her a Thank You note, but what would I even say? There were no words.
A few months after the case was won, I was walking to the subway in the West Village and I saw this beautiful and graceful older woman in front of me on the sidewalk. It was Edie. I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience. She was headed to give a talk outside of the Stonewall Inn (you can see notes poking out of her pocket). I was able to stop her and hug her and thank her for what she did - for me and same-sex partners everywhere in the USA.
Within a year of DOMA being removed, Stuart and I were married in New York on June 13th, 2014. If it wasn't for Edie, I'm not sure we'd be married at all in the USA. Fighting her case all the way up to SCOTUS and winning meant she liberated us, she brought Stuart and I together in the same country and she enabled a lot of people to be together. The universe gave me the gift of getting to thank her one time for making a case against the USA and one time for WINNING IT! Those were two of the greatest encounters in my life. Edie Windsor, I love you.