R.I.P. Edith Windsor (June 20, 1929 – September 12, 2017). Edith and her partner of over 40 years, Thea Spyer, were married in Toronto, Canada in May 2007. Thea had been diagnosed in 1977 with progressive multiple sclerosis and at the time of their marriage was already gravely suffering from related conditions. Thea died from complications related to her heart condition on February 5, 2009. On Thea’s death, Edith inherited her estate, and she was subsequently presented with a bill for $363,053 for federal estate taxes. If federal law had recognized the validity of their marriage, she would have been eligible for an unlimited spousal deduction and would not have owed anything in federal tax. Edith attempted to claim the spousal deduction but the IRS denied the request citing Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as the reason and compelled her to pay. Even though on the surface the issue was one of tax liability, fundamentally it was about equality. Thus, on November 9th, 2010, Edith filed the federal lawsuit seeking a refund that would eventually become the Supreme Court case United States v. Windsor where she succeeded in having the court declare Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. This was considered a landmark legal victory for the same-sex marriage movement in the United States and helped lay the foundation for future LGBT equality victories.
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