Edie Wind­sor, our hero

Santa Fe New Mexican - - OPINIONS - The writer was lead plain­tiff in Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 case in which the Supreme Court held that same-sex cou­ples have a con­sti­tu­tional right to marry.

I’ll never for­get the day I met Edie Wind­sor. I was at an event in the ACLU of­fices in New York. We were in­tro­duced in the mid­dle of a crowded room, and it was as if ev­ery­one else — ev­ery­thing else, re­ally — ceased to ex­ist. I sud­denly found my­self in the or­bit of this mes­mer­iz­ing woman. We chat­ted about our ex­pe­ri­ences in the land­mark le­gal cases that ul­ti­mately led to mar­riage equal­ity in the United States. But we talked more about Thea and John, our late spouses.

We both be­gan to cry, and I re­mem­ber be­ing struck by how present Edie was, how she made me feel as if I were the only other per­son in that room. In the two years after we met, how­ever, I saw again and again that this was just Edie’s way. Whether you were an old friend with many shared mem­o­ries or a stranger, Edie made you feel known.

Hero. Our so­ci­ety has be­come very free in its use of that word, but if any­one fully de­served the la­bel, it was Edie. Her suc­cess­ful ca­reer in the male-dom­i­nated world of tech­nol­ogy and her ef­forts to in­spire and sup­port women in that in­dus­try are rea­sons enough to ad­mire her. But that isn’t why so many of us con­sider Edie our hero. She be­came our hero be­cause of her courage in fight­ing to have her law­ful mar­riage to the per­son she loved treated as equal to op­po­site-sex mar­riages, even in a time of great per­sonal loss. Edie is our hero be­cause she moved the LGBT com­mu­nity a gi­ant step closer to full equal­ity as Amer­i­cans.

Edie well un­der­stood the risks and sac­ri­fices in­her­ent in tak­ing on the dis­crim­i­na­tory De­fense of Mar­riage Act. She pressed ahead any­way, and she never wa­vered. In the fight for equal­ity, we of­ten say that we stand on the shoul­ders of those who came be­fore us. Few had big­ger shoul­ders than Edie. Her strengths were those of char­ac­ter, com­mit­ment and gen­eros­ity, and she shared th­ese will­ingly and fre­quently. In her work with the LGBT Com­mu­nity Cen­ter, Les­bians Who Tech, Ser­vices & Ad­vo­cacy for GLBT Elders, and more, Edie was gen­er­ous with her time, en­ergy, ex­per­tise and fi­nan­cial sup­port. The name Edie Wind­sor was syn­ony­mous with pos­si­bil­ity, and she gave of her­self so that oth­ers could turn their pos­si­bil­i­ties into re­al­ity.

Edie was al­ways quick to of­fer a smile and thought­ful words of ad­vice. Her love for and de­vo­tion to Thea Spyer were le­gendary, and al­though some shy away from the world after los­ing a loved one, Edie con­tin­ued to en­joy life and those she met after Thea’s death in 2009. Edie fought for love, and love was re­turned to her in count­less ways, from the hugs from strangers to the joy of her 2016 mar­riage to Ju­dith Kasen-Wind­sor. Edie em­braced life, al­ways. She left the world bet­ter than she found it.

It isn’t of­ten that a hero be­comes a friend, and I’m grate­ful to have known and loved Edie. I re­mem­ber cof­fee and con­ver­sa­tion in her New York apart­ment. Rid­ing in con­vert­ibles as grand mar­shals for Cap­i­tal Pride in Wash­ing­ton. Walk­ing on the beach in the Hamp­tons. Pre­sent­ing her with a muchde­served award. I can see her pink hat and her mouth curled up in a smile as she gave ad­vice or told a story. But when I think about the amount of time I ac­tu­ally spent with her, in the end I’m struck by how mea­ger it seems in com­par­i­son with the emo­tional im­pact she had on me. And I re­al­ize again how for­tu­nate I was to know this won­der­ful, feisty woman who did much for so many through a life well lived and love freely given.


Edith Wind­sor, shown 2012, died last week. She was 88.

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