United States v. Windsor
I was extremely excited (if not a tad nervous) about yesterday’s marriage equality decisions from the United States Supreme Court. I had just come off my lunch at work, sneaking looks at my phone when the decision came through. (I will write a blog post about my fascination and love of all things America at a later date.) Irrespective of your opinion on the country, it cannot be doubted that America’s role and influence is unmatched in the Western world. If America does not recognise its gay and lesbian citizens, why would any other nation ever consider doing so?
At the time of the original Prop 8 court case in 2010, I remember feeling so ecstatic that we had finally won something concrete. Legal protections that couldn’t be taken away – or so we thought. The decision’s reversal only heightened my belief in society’s opinion of homosexuality as an “other” that should never be afforded the same status as heterosexuality within law. For someone who at that time was only just coming to terms with their own homosexuality, the reversal was more than disappointing – it was personal. California: Counterculture, liberal arts, San Francisco, Haight Ashbury, LSD. California: Bigotry, discrimination, scaremongering.
Then there was DOMA. There I was, so naïve in my thoughts that such legislation could never exist. Why would it? Why can’t we all just get along?
There is an extra special place is my heart for Edith Windsor. Sometimes people’s “coming out” stories just resonate with you in a way that cannot be replicated. Windsor moved to New York after her marriage broke down, finding herself envious of the ”out” lesbians in Greenwich Village. She met Spyer, they were together for 40 years before they were married in 2007 in Canada. Two years later, Thea passed away after a long battle with multiple sclerosis. Edith was diagnosed with “broken heart syndrome” after a heart attack. Then, as if losing the person most dear to her wasn’t punishment enough, the IRS issued Windsor with a $363,000 tax bill – simply because she was married to a woman. Windsor took the decision to sue the United States government because DOMA was both unconstitutional, and a violation of the Fifth Amendment. Windsor vs. United States was never a simple fight for a tax rebate. It will forever be remembered as one of the most selfless acts committed by woman in the United States.
DOMA was so much more than words on a page. It was the denial of more than a thousand benefits to same-sex couples. It was 40 years and more. It was a stigma, a pigeonhole, a continuation of the belief in difference.
At 84, some would describe “Edie” – as she is affectionately known – as the “perfect” plaintiff. Gone are the youthful stereotypes surrounding “confusion” and “phases” – Windsor’s relationship with Spyer, spanning more than 40 years, ensures the validity of the phenomenon that is love, and its availability to all regardless of race, creed, colour, religion and mostly importantly, sexual orientation. The unquestionable certainty with which Windsor and Spyer loved one another cannot be denied, and should not be disparaged. (I would be immensely interested to hear SCOTUS’s decision had the plaintiff been 23/24.)
The Guardian today described Windsor as an “unlikely hero”. I would describe her as a perfect hero. I cannot think of a better person to have represented me in front of the United States Supreme Court.
Thank you, Edith Windsor.