New York Daily News

Edith beats gay-wed ban


FOR EDITH WINDSOR, love meant never giving up.

The 84-year-old Manhattan woman at the center of Wednesday’s historic Supreme Court ruling expanding gay rights cried when the decision came down.

“We won everything we asked and hoped for,” Windsor said in a soft, almost raspy voice nearly drowned out by the sound of camera shutters at a celebrator­y news conference.

Referring to Thea Spyer, the woman she married in 2007, and who died two years later, Windsor added, “If I had to survive Thea, what a glorious way to do it.”

Windsor sued when she was hit with $360,000 in inheritanc­e taxes after Spyer’s death. Had they been a heterosexu­al couple, Windsor would have owed nothing. But the government did not recognize their same-sex marriage, and so Windsor went to court.

She was waiting in her attorney’s home when the Supreme Court issued its ruling: Legally married gay couples deserve equal federal government footing with all other married Americans.

Windsor’s challenge of the federal Defense of Marriage Act had been successful. She was an instant hero. Even the President checkedin.

“Hello, whom am I talking to?” Windsor said when given the phone. “Oh, Barack Obama? I wanted to thank you. I think your coming out for us made such a difference throughout the country.”

Later, at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgende­r Community Center on W. 13th St. in Greenwich Village, she talked about what it felt like to make history.

Dressed in a black suit, purple shirt and purple necklace, Windsor beamed at the applause of 75 supporters. She felt “joyous, just joyous,” she said. “What a life I’ve had, full of love and joy. I thankyou all from the bottom of my heart.”

From Washington to Hollywood to the birthplace of the gay rights movement — the Stonewall Inn in the Village — there was a similar outpouring of emotion.

Supporters of same-sex marriage burst into cheers, wept openly and chanted “DOMA Is Dead” and “U.S.A.!” outside the Supreme Court.

Obama praised the 5-to-4 decision, calling the Defense of Marriage Act “discrimina­tion enshrined in law.”

“It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people,” Obama said in a statement. “The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it.”

Former President Bill Clinton, who signed DOMA into law in 1996, issued a joint state- ment with his wife, Hillary Clinton, that cheered the repeal. “The court recognized that discrimina­tion towards any group holds us all back in our efforts to form a more perfect union,” they said.

Mayor Bloomberg changed the avatars on his personal and office Twitter accounts to the rainbow colors of the gay rights movement.

And City Council Speaker Christine Quinn — who married her longtime partner, Kim Catullo, in May 2012 — said she cried when the ruling came down.

“All of our hopes and dreams came true at the Supreme Court today,” said Quinn (DManhattan).

Gay-rights supporters gathered at the Stonewall on Christophe­r St.

“I can’t help but to feel a little more e American today,” said Benjamin Eye, 36, a visitor from San Francisco.

At a rally at the Stonewall Wednesday night, Windsor was serenaded with chants of “Edie! Edie!” — and then made a surprise pick in the mayoral race. “I was committed to not endorse anyone until there was a decision,” Windsor said, before adding: “Christine Quinn!”

Quinn, who then spoke, repaid the compliment. “The federal government picked the wrong New Yorker to mess with!” she said.

And in Hollywood, celebritie­s from Ben Affleck to Kelly Clarkson cheered the ruling and a companion decision that will allow same-sex marriage in California.

“Historic day. Well done #SCOTUS,” Leonardo DiCaprio tweeted. Lady Gaga wrote, “We stand tall today. #DomaStruck­Down. So many fought for so long. Be proud, the prejudice are now the minority.”

And there was this tweet from Ellen DeGenenere­s: “It’s a supremely wonderful day for equality. Prop 8 is over, and so is DOMA. Congratula­tions everyone. And I mean everyone.”

But the decisio left oppo- nents of same-sex marriage outraged and predicting dire consequenc­es for the country.

“No man, not even a Supreme Court, can undo what a holy God has instituted,” said Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.).

Conservati­ve radio commentato­r Rush Limbaugh saw the decision as the “disintegra­tion of the United States.”

Critics said they would work to overturn the decision, in the same way that opponents of the Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 ruling Roe vs. Wade have labored to roll back abort tion rights.

“A robust national debate over marriage will continue in the public square, and it is my hope that states will define marriage as the union between one man and one woman,” said House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

But in the outpouring of reaction Wednesday, it was easy to overlook that Windsor’s legal victory is also a love story.

Born in Philadelph­ia, Windsor went to Temple University and then New York University, where she got a graduate degree in math. At IBM, she started writing code, wound up managing corporate strategy and date lot of men.

In 1967, at a West Village lesbian club called Portofino, she met Spyer, a clinical psychologi­st. They danced the night away until Windsor wound up with a hole in a stocking. They hung out in the Hamptons, and Spyer proposed with a diamond brooch. Windsor couldn’t wear an engagement ring since the questions at work would all involve when she had met “him.”

So they shared a Greenwich Village home for 34 years, and in 2007, they got married in Canada.

By that time, Spyer was a quadripleg­ic, her body ravaged by multiple sclerosis. Windsor never left her side. With help, they slid rings onto one another’s fingers.

When asked if she had felt differentl­y the next day, Windsor said unequivoca­lly, “Yes.”

When Spyer died and Windsor received that enormous tax bill, she was “overwhelme­d with the sense of injustice,” she said Wednesday.

That unfairness was the crux of her lawsuit. If New York State recognized her marriage, why should DOMA deprive her of the same tax benefits a heterosexu­al widow would receive?

She found an attorney, Roberta Kaplan of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. The firm took the case pro bono and began Windsor’s historic legal challenge.

After Wednesday’s victory, Kaplan called her mother and exclaimed, “Total victory, Mom! It couldn’t be better.”

It’s why Alison Klein and Lisa Padilla, married for more than a year, showed up at the W. 13th St. center. They’re friends of Windsor, whose fervor and humility poured forth in the presence of supporters. “She understand­s her place in history,” said Padilla, an NYU law professor. “She’s going to be read about in lawbooks.”

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Edith Windsor
 ?? Photo by EPA ?? Gay-rights supporters at Supreme Court in Washington before it ruled Wednesday that legally married gay couples deserve same federal government treatment as other married couples. Below, News coverage of struggle for equality.
Photo by EPA Gay-rights supporters at Supreme Court in Washington before it ruled Wednesday that legally married gay couples deserve same federal government treatment as other married couples. Below, News coverage of struggle for equality.
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