Edith Windsor, plaintiff in a landmark Supreme Court case on same-sex marriage, died Tuesday in Manhattan at age 88. Windsor’s wife, Judith Kasen-Windsor, confirmed the news. Although the cause of Windsor’s death was not publicly known at the time of publication, she had experienced health challenges for years, including an instance of stress cardiomyopathy in 2009 — also known as broken heart syndrome.
Windsor made headlines in 2013 when she sued the U.S. government for refusing to recognize her late wife as a legal spouse. Windsor and her first spouse, Thea Spyer, married legally in Canada in 2007, having been together for over 40 years. When Spyer died in 2009, Windsor found that she could not file for a marital deduction on Spyer’s estate because of the federal government’s definition of marriage as a commitment between a man and a woman.
She refused to accept a tax bill that heterosexual couples would not have to pay. Instead, she pursued her case all the way up to the Supreme Court. In June 2013, the high court ruled 5-4 that this provision was unconstitutional, and that same-sex couples who were legally married are entitled to the same federal benefits as heterosexual married couples.
While the ruling was limited to 13 states and the District of Columbia, the Windsor decision paved the way for the Supreme Court case that ruled same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.
As Windsor’s lawyer, Roberta Kaplan said, "She will go down in the history books as a true American hero.”