Gay rights pioneer Edith Windsor dies at 88


Edith Windsor, the lesbian New Yorker whose landmark legal case paved the way for gay marriage, has died at 88.

The longtime Greenwich Village resident was the plaintiff in Windsor vs. U.S., a 2013 Supreme Court case that knocked down the Defense of Marriage Act’s discrimination against LGBT couples in 2013.

Windsor, known for remaining bubbly and upbeat during her legal battle, asked for a tax refund after her Canadian marriage to Thea Spyer was not recognized by the U.S. government when Spyer died in 2009.

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Edith Windsor through the years
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Edith Windsor through the years

Edith Windsor attends the New York City Gay Pride 2017 march on June 25, 2017 in New York City.

(Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) talks with Edith Windsor (R) in the hallway before a news conference on gay marriage on Capitol Hill on March 16, 2011 in Washington, DC. Gillibrand and sixteen other Democrats introduced a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

(Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

Rosie O'Donnell and Edie Windsor speak on stage at Family Equality Council's 'Night at the Pier' at Pier 60 on May 8, 2017 in New York City.

(Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Family Equality Council)

Edie Windsor attends the 2017 Village Voice Pride Awards at Capitale on June 21, 2017 in New York City.

(Photo by Gonzalo Marroquin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

Edith Windsor (L), 83, waves as she and her lawyer Roberta Kaplan arrive at the Supreme Court March 27, 2013 in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case 'Edith Schlain Windsor, in Her Capacity as Executor of the Estate of Thea Clara Spyer, Petitioner v. United States,' the second case about same-sex marriage this week.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 27: Edith Windsor (L), 83, and her lawyer Roberta Kaplan arrive at the Supreme Court on March 27, 2013 in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case 'Edith Schlain Windsor, in Her Capacity as Executor of the Estate of Thea Clara Spyer, Petitioner v. United States,' the second case about same-sex marriage this week. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Edie Windsor participates in The March at the New York City Pride 2017 on June 25, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 27: Edith Windsor (C), 83, is mobbed by journalists and supporters as she leaves the Supreme Court March 27, 2013 in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case 'Edith Schlain Windsor, in Her Capacity as Executor of the Estate of Thea Clara Spyer, Petitioner v. United States,' which challenges the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the second case about same-sex marriage this week. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 27: Edith Windsor, 83, acknowledges her supporters as she leaves the Supreme Court March 27, 2013 in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case 'Edith Schlain Windsor, in Her Capacity as Executor of the Estate of Thea Clara Spyer, Petitioner v. United States,' which challenges the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the second case about same-sex marriage this week. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 14: Edith Windsor attends the 19th Annual Out100 Awards presented by Buick at Terminal 5 on November 14, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for OUT100 presented by Buick)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 27: Edith Windsor (C), 83, kisses a supporter as she is mobbed by journalists and supporters while leaving the Supreme Court March 27, 2013 in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case 'Edith Schlain Windsor, in Her Capacity as Executor of the Estate of Thea Clara Spyer, Petitioner v. United States,' which challenges the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the second case about same-sex marriage this week. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Edith Windsor, holds her notes in her hand as she prepares to speak to the media in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. March 27, 2013. The US Supreme Court is considering the issue of legalizing same-sex marriage, during oral arguments on DOMA. Photo Ken CedenoThe US Supreme Court is considering the issue of legalizing same-sex marriage, during oral arguments on DOMA. Photo Ken Cedeno (Photo by Ken Cedeno/Corbis via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 11: Congressman Jerrold Nadler (L) and Edith 'Edie' Windsor attend The Center Dinner 2013 Gala at Cipriani Wall Street on April 11, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Stewart/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 11: Edith 'Edie' Windsor attends The Center Dinner 2013 Gala at Cipriani Wall Street on April 11, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Stewart/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 11: Glennda Testone, David Mixner, Edith 'Edie' Windsor and Terrence Meck attend The Center Dinner Annual Gala Honoring Edie Winsor at Cipriani Wall Street on April 11, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Steve Mack/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 26: Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) plaintiff Edith 'Edie' Windsor (L) speaks with her lead attorney Roberta Kaplan (R) at a press conference in Manhattan following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on DOMA on June 26, 2013 in New York City. It was the death of Windsor's life partner of 42 years, Thea Clara Spyer, which led to the case. The high court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and ruled that supporters of California's ban on gay marriage, Proposition 8, could not defend it before the Supreme Court. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 26: Supporters of Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) plaintiff Edith 'Edie' Windsor wait for her to enter a press conference in Manhattan following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on DOMA on June 26, 2013 in New York City. It was the death of Windsor's life partner of 42 years, Thea Clara Spyer, which led to the case. The high court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and ruled that supporters of California's ban on gay marriage, Proposition 8, could not defend it before the Supreme Court. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 02: Comedian Lea DeLaria and Edith Windsor attend the 2015 Center Dinner at Cipriani Wall Street on April 2, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 14: Edith Windsor speaks onstage at the 19th Annual Out100 Awards presented by Buick at Terminal 5 on November 14, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for OUT100 presented by Buick)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 04: Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights activist Edith 'Edie' Windsor attends PFLAG National's Eighth Annual Straight for Equality Awards Gala at The New York Marriott Marquis on April 4, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)
Plaintiff Edie Windsor (R), an 83-year-old lesbian widow, gestures at same-sex marriage supporters as she leaves the Supreme Court on March 27, 2013 in Washington, DC, after the US v. Windsor case hearing challenging the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The US Supreme Court tackled same-sex unions for a second day Wednesday, hearing arguments for and against the 1996 US law defining marriage as between one man and one woman. After the nine justices mulled arguments on a California law outlawing gay marriage on Tuesday, they took up a challenge to the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The 1996 law prevents couples who have tied the knot in nine states -- where same-sex marriage is legal -- from enjoying the same federal rights as heterosexual couples. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
LGBT rights activist Edith Windsor(C) poses for a photo as Mayor Bill de Blasio joins elected officials, advocates and New Yorkers in designating Stonewall Inn a National Monument,on June 27, 2016 in New York. / AFP / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 23: LGBTQ activist Edith Windsor and Educator of the Year Amber Schweitzer attend the GLSEN Respect Awards at Cipriani 42nd Street on May 23, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for GLSEN Respect Awards)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 18: Edie Windsor attends 'The Out List' New York Premiere on June 18, 2013 in New York, United States. (Photo by John Lamparski/WireImage)
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The 2013 Supreme Court decision allowed same-sex married couples to receive federal benefits, and contributed to the legal reasoning behind 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized gay marriage across the U.S.

Windsor re-married last year to Judith Kasen-Windsor, 52, who first confirmed her death to the New York Times.

23 PHOTOS
Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage, gay marriage, marriage equality
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Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage, gay marriage, marriage equality
People celebrate during a rally outside the Stonewall Tavern in the West Village in New York on June 26, 2015, after the US Supreme Court's historic decision on same sex marriage. The US Supreme Court ruled on June 26, that gay marriage is a nationwide right, a landmark decision in one of the most keenly awaited announcements in decades and sparking scenes of jubilation. The nation's highest court, in a narrow 5-4 decision, said the US Constitution requires all states to carry out and recognize marriage between people of the same sex. AFP PHOTO/JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
A couple kiss to celebrate the US Supreme Court's historic decision on same sex marriage during a rally outside the Stonewall Tavern in the West Village in New York on June 26, 2015, after the US Supreme Court's historic decision on same sex marriage. The US Supreme Court ruled on June 26, that gay marriage is a nationwide right, a landmark decision in one of the most keenly awaited announcements in decades and sparking scenes of jubilation. The nation's highest court, in a narrow 5-4 decision, said the US Constitution requires all states to carry out and recognize marriage between people of the same sex. AFP PHOTO/JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
People celebrates during a rally outside the Stonewall Tavern in the West Village in New York on June 26, 2015, after the US Supreme Court's historic decision on same sex marriage. The US Supreme Court ruled on June 26, that gay marriage is a nationwide right, a landmark decision in one of the most keenly awaited announcements in decades and sparking scenes of jubilation. The nation's highest court, in a narrow 5-4 decision, said the US Constitution requires all states to carry out and recognize marriage between people of the same sex. AFP PHOTO/JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
People celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on June 26, 2015 after its historic decision on gay marriage. The US Supreme Court ruled Friday that gay marriage is a nationwide right, a landmark decision in one of the most keenly awaited announcements in decades and sparking scenes of jubilation. The nation's highest court, in a narrow 5-4 decision, said the US Constitution requires all states to carry out and recognize marriage between people of the same sex. AFP PHOTO/ MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Two women celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington DC on June 26, 2015 after its historic decision on gay marriage. The US Supreme Court ruled Friday that gay marriage is a nationwide right, a landmark decision in one of the most keenly awaited announcements in decades and sparking scenes of jubilation. The nation's highest court, in a narrow 5-4 decision, said the US Constitution requires all states to carry out and recognize marriage between people of the same sex. AFP PHOTO/ MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Same-sex marriage supporters rejoice after the U.S Supreme Court hands down a ruling regarding same-sex marriage June 26, 2015 outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC. The high court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
People celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on June 26, 2015 after its historic decision on gay marriage. The US Supreme Court ruled Friday that gay marriage is a nationwide right, a landmark decision in one of the most keenly awaited announcements in decades and sparking scenes of jubilation. The nation's highest court, in a narrow 5-4 decision, said the US Constitution requires all states to carry out and recognize marriage between people of the same sex. AFP PHOTO/ MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
People run under a giant equality flag as they celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on June 26, 2015 after its historic decision on gay marriage. The US Supreme Court ruled Friday that gay marriage is a nationwide right, a landmark decision in one of the most keenly awaited announcements in decades and sparking scenes of jubilation. The nation's highest court, in a narrow 5-4 decision, said the US Constitution requires all states to carry out and recognize marriage between people of the same sex. AFP PHOTO/ MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 26: Same-sex marriage supporters from the Human Rights Campaign celebrate after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages nationwide on Friday, June 26, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
People shout slogans as they celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on June 26, 2015 after its historic decision on gay marriage. The US Supreme Court ruled Friday that gay marriage is a nationwide right, a landmark decision in one of the most keenly awaited announcements in decades and sparking scenes of jubilation. The nation's highest court, in a narrow 5-4 decision, said the US Constitution requires all states to carry out and recognize marriage between people of the same sex. AFP PHOTO/ MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 26: Same-sex marriage supporters rejoice after the U.S Supreme Court hands down a ruling regarding same-sex marriage June 26, 2015 outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC. The high court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 26: Activists hold signs regarding same-sex marriage outside the U.S. Supreme Court June 26, 2015 in Washington, DC. The high court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Same-sex marriage supporters rejoice after the U.S Supreme Court hands down a ruling regarding same-sex marriage June 26, 2015 outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC. The high court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Same-sex marriage supporters rejoice after the U.S Supreme Court hands down a ruling regarding same-sex marriage June 26, 2015 outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC. The high court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Same-sex marriage supporters rejoice after the U.S Supreme Court hands down a ruling regarding same-sex marriage June 26, 2015 outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC. The high court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
People shout slogans as they celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on June 26, 2015 after its historic decision on gay marriage. The US Supreme Court ruled Friday that gay marriage is a nationwide right, a landmark decision in one of the most keenly awaited announcements in decades and sparking scenes of jubilation. The nation's highest court, in a narrow 5-4 decision, said the US Constitution requires all states to carry out and recognize marriage between people of the same sex. AFP PHOTO/ MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Same-sex marriage supporters hold rainbow flags outside the U.S. Supreme Court June 26, 2015 in Washington, DC. The high court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
People wave a giant equality flag in celebration outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on June 26, 2015 after its historic decision on gay marriage. The US Supreme Court ruled Friday that gay marriage is a nationwide right, a landmark decision in one of the most keenly awaited announcements in decades and sparking scenes of jubilation. The nation's highest court, in a narrow 5-4 decision, said the US Constitution requires all states to carry out and recognize marriage between people of the same sex. AFP PHOTO/ MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
A man holds a rainbow flag in support of same-sex marriage outside the U.S. Supreme Court June 26, 2015 in Washington, DC. The high court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that gay couples nationwide have the right to marry in a 5-4 decision. How incredible it is to be here as they announced it!
It is now clear that the challenged laws burden the liberty of same-sex couples, and it must be further acknowledged that they abridge central precepts of equality . . . Especially against a long history of disapproval of their relationships, this denial to same-sex couples of the right to marry works a grave and continuing harm. #fbf #equality #lovemustwin #freedomtomarry
People are FREAKING OUT at the Stonewall Inn! Tears, hugs, laughter. http://t.co/bC1RUfEDzk
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