DOMA Conqueror Edie Windsor Was an ‘Ignorant Middle Class Lady’ Before Stonewall

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Flashback to June, 2013 and one of the leading fights in the path for LGBTQ right was won triumphantly by those in favour of same gender marriage. DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) was a stifling piece of United States legislation that meant that marriages between those of the same gender would not be recognised by the government.

And that even if you were legally married, you wouldn’t be entitled to healthcare and social security benefits that opposite gender married couples were free to enjoy.

However, DOMA’s oppressive power was swiftly dismantled and destroyed after widow Edie Windsor sued the US government after they billed her for $363,053 in estate taxes after Windsor’s wife, Thea Spyer, passed away in 2009. But she wasn’t always such a prominent activist.

In Windsor’s own words, the 84-year old describes herself as being an “ignorant middle class lady” around the time that the famous Stonewall riots happened in 1969 as she didn’t think she “identified with those queens”.

Stonewall was a series of protests by members of the LGBTQ community after police raided the Stonewall Inn (a gay bar in New York City which was then owned by the Mafia) and although the movement spawned the pride parades that we know and enjoy today, back then the anti-gay epithet of the times saw it get a bad rep. The fact that the Stonewall Inn was frequented by some of the poorest people in the LGBTQ community is likely also a factor as to why Windsor didn’t identify with those who took part in the riots.

However, Windsor soon recognised just how big of a deal the Stonewall riots are, telling Marriage Equality USA that

“I mean those queens changed my life and I saw them and I loved what I saw. It was the beginning of my sense of community.”

Edie Windsor

As for the own landmark decision in LGBTQ rights that she herself was part of, she added,

“Suddenly the self-esteem is just flowing – I mean even these judges are saying we’re respectable. So we were coming out in droves and the more we came out, the more we saw each other and the more we loved and then more of us came out until we’re just this huge, joyous, loving community and I live in the middle of it and its great.”

Edie Windsor


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