Edith Windsor, the gay-rights activist whose landmark Supreme Court case struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013 and granted same-sex married couples federal recognition for the first time and rights to myriad federal benefits, died Tuesday in New York. She was 88.
Her wife, Judith Kasen-Windsor, confirmed the death but did not specify a cause.
Windsor, the widow of a woman with whom she had lived much of her life, became the lead plaintiff in what is widely regarded as the second most important Supreme Court ruling in the national battle over same-sex marriage rights. The Windsor decision was limited to 13 states and the District of Columbia. But in 2015, the Supreme Court held that same-sex couples had a constitutional right to marry anywhere in the nation.
Like countless others, Windsor had been snared by the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which barred same-sex married couples from federal recognition as “spouses,” effectively excluding them from federal benefits available to married heterosexuals.
After living together for 40 years, Windsor and Thea Spyer, a psychologist, were legally married in Canada in 2007. Spyer died in 2009, and Windsor inherited her estate. But the Internal Revenue Service denied her the unlimited spousal exemption from federal estate taxes available to married heterosexuals.
She sued, claiming that the law, by recognizing only marriages between a man and a woman, unconstitutionally singled out same-sex marriage partners for “differential treatment.” Affirming two lower court rulings, the Supreme Court overturned the law in a 5-4 ruling.
By striking down the…
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