Dear Ms. Windsor:
Fifty years ago you walked into a restaurant in New York City that, on Friday nights, was known to cater to women who wanted to meet other women. You would meet Thea Spyer, the woman who would eventually become your wife, that night. Five decades later, the two of you have walked into history with the potentially landmark case, United States v. Windsor, that you have brought to the Supreme Court.
Since 1996, and the passage of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the U.S. has legally defined marriage as the “union between one man and one woman.” In the eyes of our federal government, your 44-year relationship with Ms. Spyer, which included a 40-year engagement and a wedding, in 2007 in Canada, was not as legitimate as heterosexual marriages. This despite the fact that you both worked, paid taxes, contributed to the community and you cared for your spouse throughout her long struggle with multiple sclerosis until her death in 2009. Eventually, New York State would recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states or countries where such unions were legal, but because of DOMA, the federal government did not.
When Thea died, you were left to pay $363,000 in federal estate taxes that you would not have had to do if, as you have said in the past, “Thea was Theo.” You had had enough, and you brought your case to the Supreme Court. Now the case has been heard and we will wait until this summer to learn if the highest court in the land will end this discriminatory law that has harmed so many Americans.
Ms. Windsor, you have said that DOMA is “…a terrible injustice, and I don’t expect that from my country.” And that’s an important point that is too often left out of this discussion. This is our country, too, and it is long past time that all of the rights and benefits afforded heterosexual, married couples are extended to same-sex, married couples.
A few years after you and Ms. Spyer met, a new musical, Cabaret, opened on Broadway. I wonder if the two of you went to see the production. If so, you would have heard the song, “Married,” that includes the lyric:
“How the world can change,
It can change like that.
Due to one little word: Married.”
Our worlds change all of the time.
We go to a restaurant and we meet the person we will spend the rest of our lives with. And, a few courageous people like you share your story with the world, take your case before the Supreme Court and, hopefully, help to change the definition of one little word, “marriage.”
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