Edith Windsor, the same-sex marriage activist who served as the lead plaintiff in the 2013 Supreme Court case that overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, died Tuesday at 88-years-old.
A cause has not been specified, but her lawyer, Robbie Caplan, confirmed to BuzzFeed News that she died peacefully in Manhattan.
Former president Barack Obama released a statement following news of Windsor’s death.
“America’s long journey towards equality has been guided by countless small acts of persistence, and fueled by the stubborn willingness of quiet heroes to speak out for what’s right,” he wrote. “Few were as small in stature as Edie Windsor – and few made as big a difference to America.”
“I had the privilege to speak with Edie a few days ago, and to tell her one more time what a difference she made to this country we love. She was engaged to her partner, Thea, for forty years. After a wedding in Canada, they were married for less than two,” Obama continued. “But federal law didn’t recognize a marriage like theirs as valid – which meant that they were denied certain federal rights and benefits that other married couples enjoyed. And when Thea passed away, Edie spoke up – not for special treatment, but for equal treatment – so that other legally married same-sex couples could enjoy the same federal rights and benefits as anyone else … Michelle and I offer our condolences to her wife, Judith, and to all who loved and looked up to Edie Windsor.”
Celebrities including Andy Cohen, Rosie O’Donnell, and Chelsea Clinton mourned Windsor on social media Tuesday and paid tribute to her monumental contributions to the fight for equality. See a round-up of reactions below.
Windsor’s contributions to LGBTQ causes, from gay rights marches in the 1970s to working with Senator Dianne Feinstein on a Respect for Marriage Act in 2011, touched those within and beyond her community. Her late-in-life court victory, which effectively legalized same-sex marriage at the federal level, served as a fittingly seismic cap to a life of hard-fought activism.