Thursday, March 28, 2013

DOMA Supreme Court Plaintiff Is Inspiring

In big huge Supreme Court cases, people who are hoping for some sort of landmark decision try to get a very sympathetic, smart and approachable plaintiff to be the Everyperson face behind the issue. Think Rosa Parks and civil rights.

Edith Windsor address the press and supporters on
the day of the big U.S. Supreme Court case on the
constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.  
That was true yesterday, as the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on whether the Defense of Marriage Act is constitutional.

The plaintiff in this case is Edith Windsor, 83, whose wife Thea Spyer died in 2009. Windsor had to pay $363,000 more in estate taxes than she would have had she been married to a guy.

Buzzfeed  had a very nice, quick photo essay on Windsor's back story, and Spyer, who was the love of her life,  That is centerpiece of what is at issue before the Court.

The couple were together for 42 years. Shortly before Spyer's death, the pair finally got the chance to marry.

Here's the text of what Windsor had to say to the press, public and supporters on the steps on the Supreme Court as her big case, United States vs. Windsor, had its day in court::

"Somebody wrote me a large speech which I'm not going to make but there are a couple of things I wanted to say. I wanted to tell you what marriage meant to me.

"When my beautiful sparkling Thea died four years ago I was overcome with grief. Within a month I was hospitalized with a heart attack, and that's kind of common, it's usually looked at as broken heart syndrome.

"In the midst of my grief I realized that the federal government was treating us as strangers and it meant paying a humongous estate tax. And it meant selling a lot of stuff to do it and it wasn't easy, I live on a fixed income and it wasn't easy.

"Many people ask me why get married. I was 77, Thea was 75, and maybe we were older than that at that point, but the fact is that everybody treated it as different. It turns out marriage is different.

"I've asked a number of long-range couples, gay couples who they've got married, I've asked them: 'Was it different the next morning and the answer is always: 'Yes'.' It's a huge difference.

"When our marriage appeared in the New York Times we heard from literally hundreds of people, all congratulating us and sending love because we were married. It's a magic word. For anybody who doesn't understand why we want it, and why we need it, it is magic.

"We did win in the lower courts. Today is like a spectacular event for me, a lifetime kind of event and I know that the spirit of my late spouse Thea Spyer is right here watching and listening and would be very proud and happy of what we've come to."

The most poignant part of the Buzzfeed profile of Windsor is the part where we find out out she has a life size photo of Spyer in her house. Windsor leans up against the photo and the two women  "talk" about what's going with their court case.

I know from experience what Windsor was talking about in her statement yesterday. I got same sex married in August. On one hand, everything stayed the same. Jeff and I kept living in the same house, kept to our same routines, kept loving each other.

But the fact that we were now married was a Big Deal. You wouldn't think a word would change a relationship, or at least my view of the one I'm in.

However, being married makes me feel special, and also gives me a sense of responsibility. It somehow makes our relationship that much more important. It shows the world that Jeff, and our union, is the most important thing in my life now.

And that every marriage, at least every successful one, is a precious pairing that has to be cherished. The glow of our happy marriage can only make the world just a bit better of a place for everyone. That's what I like to think anyway.

So yes, I agree with Edith Windsor. When I woke up the next day after Jeff and I got married, the world was completely different. My world, at least, had become a much more glorious place. Everyone should be so lucky.

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