If you are an LGBTQ person in America, you can now get married. However, that was not always the case, many advocates fighting for some of the rights that the LGBTQ community has today. Edith Windsor is one of those individuals who helped advance gay equality. Read on to remember how this woman helped all of us to marry who we love.
Edith Windsor, a woman in her eighties was angry and rightfully so. Windsor had just lost her wife, Thea Spyer in 2009. Spyer had made Windsor in charge of her estate and left everything that she had to Windsor. Windsor and Spyer had married in Canada in 2007, but because New York did legalize same-sex marriage in their state until June of 2011, some legal problems were now facing Windsor after Spyer’s death.
Windsor’s marriage to Spyer was not being legally recognized by the government. Therefore, Spyer was order to pay back over $300,000 in taxes due to inheriting Spyer’s estate. However, this is something that a heterosexual married couple did not have to deal with. The surviving spouse would be entitled to a federal estate tax exemption that would not require them to pay that tax.
Not recognizing homosexual marriages as valid and legal, in comparison to heterosexual couples, is something that the court system and the public had done for decades. The “Defense of Marriage Act,” (DOMA) created in 1996 by President Bill Clinton was a big stumbling block for Windsor and other gay couples. The act stated that marriage was defined as a union between a man and a woman, not two men or two women. The underlying message is that LGBTQ people are inferior to heterosexual people and do not deserve to be married, which spreads homophobia and heterosexism, which leads to more discrimination. This discrimination has been carried oun many ways, such as LGBTQ people not being to act as foster parents and adopt kids in certain states. The subject and rulings on same-sex marriage were largely centered on LGBTQ couples raising children and if children of gay marriage were harmed by not having a mother and a father raising them.
Even though Windsor did pay the estate taxes, she was not satisfied. Being legally married to Spyer, Windsor felt that she was being discriminated against unfairly. Windsor filed a suit against the United States government in 2010, which became known as the United States v. Windsor. Fortunately for Windsor, the support for DOMA was waning. In 2011, President Barack Obama stated that DOMA was unconstitutional and urged the Supreme Court and other people not to follow the act. He also did the same thing for the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Act, which prevented military from being openly gay. That act was repealed in September 2011, another way for the LGBTQ population to gain a step toward LGBTQ equality and justice.
Two years later, the court decided that Section 3 of DOMA, which stated that spouses could only be a man and a woman, was unconstitutional. Therefore, the court ruled in Windsor’s favor. The judge in the case ruled that Windsor was to be given a refund of the money that she paid to the government, plus any interest that applied to it.
As is the course of many cases, the case was appealed. However, in the appeal, the previous ruling was upheld, Section 3 of DOMA declared unconstitutional. The court case was reviewed again for a final time. In June 2013, The Supreme Court handed down a monumental decision that changed the course of LGBTQ history. DOMA was declared unconstitutional, the entire act now eradicated. This showed that LGBTQ people were now more few steps closer to gaining equality, especially concerning same-sex marriage.
The United States V. Windsor case helped to pave the way for more LGBTQ rights that were gained within the past five years. A slew of states legalized same-sex marriage after the fall of DOMA, such as Minnesota, Maryland, and New Jersey. In 2015, same-sex marriage was finally legalized in the United States, which made gay marriage legal for every LGBTQ person in America. Without Edith Windsor, whose case highlighted the huge inequality that LGBTQ married and unmarried couples were experiencing, same-sex marriage in the United States would have been tougher to pass. The United States v. Windsor is an important case that helped the LGBTQ move forward and should never be forgotten.
Thank you, Edith Windsor.
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