Edith Windsor’s Pioneering Life, From Portofino to the Supreme Court

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On March 27, the Supreme Court will hear United States v. Windsor, which seeks to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act’s explicitly heterosexual definition of matrimony. The case has wound its way through the judicial system since 2010, but the union at its core dates back to 1967. That’s when Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer, four years after meeting at West Village lesbian hangout Portofino (and dancing until Windsor wore a hole in her stocking), got engaged. “It was purely symbolic,” says Windsor. “It was a way for us to say we wanted to spend our lives together.”

In 2007, the couple finally wed, in Toronto. After Spyer died two years later, Windsor was saddled with $363,053 in federal estate taxes, a bill she faced because the government did not recognize her as Spyer’s spouse. She filed her suit to change that.

Windsor says she’s “optimistic” about her chances with the justices, whose ruling she awaits from the Greenwich Village home she shared with her mate for 34 years. In the bedroom, a striking, life-size picture of Spyer still hangs on the wall. “Pretty great, huh?” Windsor asked a visitor last week, before offering an exclusive look at other photographs of bygone adventures.

*This article originally appeared in the March 25, 2013 issue of New York Magazine.

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