EDIE WINDSOR – A LEGACY BUILT ON LOVE
Updated: Mar 16
As we kick off June Pride we feel the overwhelming presence of Edie Windsor, with every wave of a rainbow flag, with every glimmer of sun, we know she is shining through and walking alongside all of us. Her powerful words “Until all things are equal for everyone, the battle is not done” pushing us forwards.
Edie forever impacted all our lives, she fought and won the landmark civil rights case United States v. Windsor, where, on June 26th, 2013, the Supreme Court of the U.S. found section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional. This resulted in granting same-sex couples, just like us, federal rights, not only to have our marriages recognized but to receive many federal benefits that had previously been denied. This was a momentous win for the entire LGBTQ community!
When James and Celia Schlain welcomed Edith into the world on June 20th, in Philadelphia, little did they know their beloved “Edie” was destined for remarkable things. She would touch the lives of millions and leave behind an incredible legacy built on love.
It was Edie’s previous marriage, to Thea Spyer, that led Edie to file her historic lawsuit against the government. The two women originally met in 1963 but it was not until spring of 1965 that they began dating and fell in love, in 1967 Thea asked Edie to marry her, thus beginning their renowned long engagement. Edie and Thea finally married in Toronto, Canada on May 22nd, 2007, because same-sex marriage was not recognized in their home state of New York. After Thea’s death in 2009, due to the complications of an aortic stenosis, Edie was compelled to pay $363, 053 to the federal government, as well as $275,000 to New York state, in estate taxes, because her marriage was not recognized by the federal government.
During the summer of 2016, we met Edie, at an event she was attending in Provincetown, Massachusetts. We were able to thank her in person for the profound affect she had on our lives and we saw firsthand the impact she had when she entered the room. She was awe-inspiring. We told her our story and she welcomed a hug and kiss from us. It was magical, like meeting royalty.
On September 12th, 2017 the world received the devastating news of Edie’s passing. We cried as pieces of our hearts were ripped out. The woman who played a crucial part in our lives was gone.
We had the privilege to talk to Judith Kasen-Windsor, surviving spouse of Edie and hearing her speak so lovingly of Edie was a delight to our ears.
Judith: “Her passing was an absolute shock. She was in the hospital and coming home the next day, I had spent the last couple of nights with her, but she insisted I go to work the next day. I spoke to her that morning, we had a wonderful conversation, then an hour or so later I got a call, Edie had passed away. I was devastated. I still am devastated and in disbelief, there are many moments I can barely breathe! She still had so many things she wanted to do, so much she still wanted to accomplish. Edie continued to work tirelessly for the community and causes she loved. I am keenly aware I am not even close to “Edie Windsor” but I am out there every day picking up where she left off.
We celebrated our half year wedding anniversary on March 26th, 2017. It never occurred to me that we wouldn’t celebrate our 1st anniversary together. We talked about our special plans.
When Edie went into the public eye, she understood that role. She understood what she meant to people and she ran with it. I was very proud of Edie and now I am extremely protective of her legacy because I know how important it is. I wasn’t expecting to take this role on so soon, but Edie knew I would take it on and she trusted me to carry that flame forward. It is a labor of love for me, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
In 2015, Edie and Judith began dating. They married on September 26th, 2016, after Edie popped the question. After all these years Edie had found love again.
Judith: “We were always together, really happy going to events all the time, we loved doing all that. Edie would always say “she’s very much her own person, but she’s very much my person too."
"Edie was no ordinary older lady. She was the smartest person I have ever met. She was brilliant, an absolute genius. She held the highest level technical position at IBM. Not to mention she was very funny, so stylish and she had a swagger.
You only had to look at her photograph in TIME Magazine to realize how powerful she was. Edie was 3rd runner up for TIME Person of the Year in 2013, only edged out by Pope Francis, her petite frame standing tall, is every bit of a badass! I used to tell Edie all the time, this was her “badass” photo and I loved the smirk on her face.
Wherever we went, it didn’t matter who was there. Edie was always the most magnetic person in the room. People would line up for photographs with her. You don’t see me in a lot of the pictures because mainly I wanted everyone to have their moment with Edie Windsor. I understood Edie’s role, and it was important to share her with the people who adored her.
Edie took it all in. She was marvelous. We would walk into a restaurant and she would get a standing ovation. It was amazing to watch all this. One time we were standing in a line and a woman said to me “was that Edie Windsor?” as she walked away, and I said “yes, I think it was” and she said, “she’s my hero” and I told her, “she’s my hero too!”
“While I traveled around with Edie I heard thousands of stories from people whose lives had been touched by her and we came to realize the magnitude of her role. It was bigger than her marriage to Thea. She really came to realize that. She loved the families and the kids. We met two guys and their daughter, and the little girl told Edie, “we have a photograph of you in our living room.” She absolutely loved it.
I still go to all the events I can in order to represent her. She still has such a presence. When I show up it’s like she is still here. Recently, at the New York State Capital Building, I immediately saw the sunlight streaming down through the window and I knew that was Edie looking down, that was Edie shining light into the State Assembly floor just like her smile, she could light up a room. I get signs all the time and I know Edie wouldn’t want us to be sad, Edie left an important legacy and a long to-do list for us.”
Just remember, when the sun shines down on you during Pride, that is Edie celebrating with you, whispering in your ear “we’ve come too far, we aren’t going backwards!”
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