Helped end ban on gay marriage with landmark case
NEW YORK — Edith Windsor, a widow who brought a landmark Supreme Court case that struck down parts of a federal anti- gay marriage law and paved a path toward legalizing same- sex nuptials nationwide, died Tuesday. She was 88.
Windsor died in New York, said her lawyer, Roberta Kaplan. The cause of death wasn’t given, but Windsor had struggled with heart issues for years.
“The world lost a tiny but tough- asnails fighter for freedom, justice and equality,” said her current spouse, Judith Kasen- Windsor. They married last year.
Windsor became a gay rights pioneer after her first spouse, Thea Spyer, died in 2009. The women had married legally in Canada in 2007 after spending more than 40 years together.
At 81, Windsor sued the federal government, saying its definition of marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman prevented her from getting a marital deduction on Spyer’s estate. That meant she faced a huge tax bill that heterosexual couples would not have.
“She refused to accept the injustice leveled at the love of her life,” U. S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement Tuesday.
The U. S. Supreme Court ruled 5- 4 in June 2013 that the provision in the federal Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional, and that legally married same- sex couples are entitled to the same federal benefits that heterosexual couples receive.
The opinion gave the nation’s legally married gay couples equal federal footing with all other married Americans and marked a key moment of encouragement for gay marriage supporters confronting the nationwide patchwork of laws that, at the time, outlawed such unions in roughly three dozen states.