Edie Windsor was the lead plaintiff in United States v. Windsor, a landmark civil rights case in which the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government cannot discriminate against same-sex couples when determining federal benefits and protections.
Don’t ever let anybody tell you love can’t change the world. I’m the out lesbian who had the temerity to sue the United States government – and won federal recognition for all married LGBT couples – so you can take my word for it.
The night I met Thea Spyer, we danced so long that I wore a hole in my stockings. Although we weren’t able to live openly as a lesbian couple for much of our relationship, we became engaged in 1967 with a circular diamond pin as a substitute for the ring I couldn’t wear because it would have “outed” me at work. We stayed engaged for the next 40 years: goofy, joyous, wildly in love.
In 1977, Thea was diagnosed with progressive multiple sclerosis. It became debilitating, robbing her of her mobility but not her brilliant mind or indomitable spirit. Then in 2007, she was told that she had at most a year to live based on her advanced aortic stenosis. We decided to travel to Canada to finally get married. We so wanted to publicly, legally express our lifelong love and commitment.
When my beautiful Thea died two years later, I was overcome with grief. Hospitalized with a heart attack from what the doctors called “broken-heart syndrome,” I realized the federal government would still not recognize our marriage. I owed $363,000 in federal estate taxes I wouldn’t have had to pay if I had been married to a man – if “Thea” had been “Theo.” I had two choices: accept this painful injustice or fight back.
I chose to fight, all the way to the Supreme Court. And on June 26, 2013 – a hot, muggy morning that I and so many LGBT people will never forget – we won. The Supreme Court held in United States v. Windsor that Thea and I – as well as all legally married LGBT couples – had the same dignity as any other married couple. Our marriage would be recognized as equal.
I remember thinking how proud Thea would have been of me for standing up for our marriage. And I know she would want me to keep fighting today.
That’s why I’m going to do everything I can to make sure Hillary Clinton becomes the next president of the United States.
Confronting injustice takes courage, and Hillary has lots. As we were filing motions in my case, then-Secretary of State Clinton was declaring to the world, “Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.” Over the years, I’ve watched Hillary speak out against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” champion hate crimes legislation and work to make it easier for LGBT couples to adopt. As a candidate for president, she rooted for the Supreme Court to rule in favor of marriage equality and celebrated with us when marriage equality became the law of the land exactly two years after the victory in my case.
But despite recent gains, we still have work to do. As we were painfully reminded in Orlando, our community is still a prime target for harassment and violence. In many parts of the country, LGBT Americans can be married on Saturday, ejected from home on Sunday and fired on Monday simply because of who they are. States like Mississippi and North Carolina have passed laws that seek to treat LGBT Americans as second-class citizens. Too many LGBT youth face homelessness. Too many transgender people are still fighting for their most basic rights.
We need a president who isn’t afraid to take on these challenges and has the persistence to actually solve them. Hillary will fight for the Equality Act, which would protect against discrimination in employment, housing and more. She’ll end so-called “conversion therapy” and take on LGBT homelessness and violence. And she’s the only candidate with a plan to move us closer to an AIDS-free generation. It was the AIDS epidemic that first brought us together to fight as a community, and it is now time to end the epidemic by finding a cure.
Throughout the primary, I’ve been inspired by Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders. I know our Democratic Party platform will reflect the wisdom of both candidates, and I look forward to watching them join forces to elect Hillary and make history. Because there has never been more at stake for the LGBT community.
Growing up as a young girl after the Depression, I never dreamed that the LGBT community would be where we are today. It’s been the joy of a lifetime to see the world change for the better for LGBT Americans before my very eyes.
But even though I’m not so young anymore, I’m not willing to stop fighting. I don’t want a single LGBT young person to have to face the stigma, isolation and internalized homophobia that so many of us had to deal with. This Pride month, let’s commit to making sure every lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young person can grow up in a country where they can not only marry the love of their life, but go to school, work, and live free from fear and discrimination.
Hillary is the president who will fight to get us there. Because she knows what I know: Love trumps hate, the United States Constitution endures and justice will ultimately prevail.