Although many had hoped that the High Court would ultimately rule that the plebiscite was unlawful, thereby burying it so deep it could never crawl out of its grave again, it turns out that it’s not unlawful. And so it goes.

Edith Windsor died on Tuesday September, 12 2017 at the age of 88. She was well known as one of the most honest and heroic of all same-sex marriage pioneers and activists. In 1957, she received her master’s in mathematics and went to work for IBM, where she ended up holding the highest level technical position in the company, senior systems programmer. Windsor met her partner, Thea Spyer, in 1963.

Windsor’s historic Supreme Court speech is one we should all revisit in the wake of our own battles here in Australia

IBM did not allow Windsor to name her partner as her insurance beneficiary. But Windsor, being the tough-as-nails person she was, wasn’t one to roll over and do nothing about her rights and the rights of other queers. I don’t have the space in his column to list her endless achievements, but she is well worth reading about.

In terms of her wins for marriage equality, Windsor’s historic Supreme Court speech is one we should all revisit in the wake of our own battles here in Australia about what it means to deny dignity to queer people by excluding them from institutions like marriage – with the poor justification provided for that exclusion always boiling down to a glorified version of the wail, “there are no gays allowed in our very special club!”

Windsor had to live a double life, because there was no other way for her to live.

Windsor’s partner died in 2009 and Windsor was devastated to discover that she owed $363,000 in federal estate taxes, all because her marriage to Spyer was not considered valid in the United States. It is this gross injustice that took Windsor to the Supreme Court, and eventually led to her winning her case against the United States over the Defence of Marriage Act in 2013.

A few short months after that win, the Supreme Court nullified the Defence of Marriage Act, setting an unbelievable precedent that would pave the way for marriage equality in the US.

Something that Windsor said bears repeating here: “Like countless other same-sex couples, we engaged in a constant struggle to balance our love for one another and our desire to live openly and with dignity, on the one hand, with our fear of disapproval and discrimination from others on the other.”

She had to live a double life, because there was no other way for her to live. It’s only because of people like her and her partner that we enjoy a level of freedom and openness that has historically been denied to so many.

This woman accomplished so much for women in STEM fields, the queer community and y’know, humanity in general. Edith Windsor is a name to remember, and her incredible story and sheer gall throughout her life is something to be admired.

Header image credit: Rex Block/Flickr

Tell Us What You Think