Last night people gathered at the Stonewall National Monument in New York to remember LGBT activist and icon Edith Windsor, who passed away yesterday at the age of 88.
Windsor was the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case United States v. Windsor, which successfully struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 2013 and gave same-sex couples federal recognition and benefits for the first time. The case helped pave the way for the Supreme Court’s 2015 marriage equality decision.
Mourners who gathered to pay tribute to Windsor at Stonewall last night lit candles and sang “Over the Rainbow.”
There's a vigil happening for Edie tonight at the Stonewall National Monument in New York City. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/cYFRcRbnYM
— GLAAD (@glaad) September 13, 2017
The memorial was organized by the LGBT Center, Equality New York, Callen-Lorde, GMHC, SAGE, the Stonewall Democrats of New York City, Harlem Pride, and Marriage Equality USA, according to the event’s Facebook page.
Several speakers paid tribute to Windsor, and the Big Apple Marching Band played in her honor.
— Pamela Cruz (@nyarchivist) September 13, 2017
The closing farewell to Edith Windsor from the Big Apple Marching Band at the Stonewall National Monument. pic.twitter.com/8RpOVaaNo8
— JoeMyGod (@JoeMyGod) September 13, 2017
Windsor is survived by her second wife, Judith Kasen-Windsor, whom she married in October 2016.
In 2007, Windsor went to Canada to marry her first wife Thea Spyer, after a 40-year engagement. After Spyer died in 2009, Windsor inherited her estate but was left with over $350,000 in estate taxes because same-sex married couples weren’t entitled to the same benefits as straight married couples under DOMA.
That injustice prompted her to challenge the law in court.
— Juan Rosa (@JuanRosa_NYC) September 13, 2017
In addition to her legacy as an LGBT rights trailblazer, Windsor was also a celebrated mathematician and computer scientist who helped break down barriers for women in the industry’s early days.
Last night as the candlelight memorial was getting underway in New York, former president Barack Obama also paid tribute to Windsor in a moving Facebook post.
“America’s long journey towards equality has been guided by countless small acts of persistence, and fueled by the stubborn willingness of quiet heroes to speak out for what’s right,” Obama wrote.
“Few were as small in stature as Edie Windsor – and few made as big a difference to America.”
On the day the Supreme Court passed its marriage equality ruling in 2015, the then-POTUS says Windsor’s role in the victory was clear.
“I thought about Edie that day,” he wrote. “I thought about all the millions of quiet heroes across the decades whose countless small acts of courage slowly made an entire country realize that love is love – and who, in the process, made us all more free. They deserve our gratitude. And so does Edie.”