Edie Windsor, the 84-year-old plaintiff in the Supreme Court case that struck down the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, was asked what her immediate reaction was when she heard the news Wednesday.
“I cried,” she said.
Windsor said it was an accident of history that made her a hero in the gay rights community. Windsor married her long-time partner Thea Spyer in 2007. Spyer passed away after a long battle with multiple sclerosis in 2009 - and Windsor was hit with $363,000 in estate tax, money she would not have had to pay if the Federal government recognized same-sex marriages.
"I felt distressed and anguished that in the eyes of my government, the woman I had loved and cared for and had shared my life with was not my spouse, but was considered a stranger with no relationship to me,” Windsor said.
Windsor credited her legal team with a “historic” win, led by her lawyer Roberta Kaplan, who Windsor said “monumentally” argued her case before the Supreme Court. Kaplan said the case never would have happened “without the tenacity” of her “five-foot tall” client.
In an interview with WNYC's Amy Eddings, Kaplan said she hoped the Court’s focus on equal rights for legally married, same-sex couples will help push states like New Jersey to move away from civil union laws.
“I think there will be great pressure on states to do that,” Kaplan said.
To hear a full interview with Windsor's lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, click audio above.