Edith Windsor, the New Yorker who successfully challenged the Defense Of Marriage Act in court, was hailed as a major civil rights hero following Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling, but she told reporters in Greenwich Village that an "accident of history" brought her into the landmark case, which she did not expect she would win. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
Gay rights advocates celebrated on Wednesday a Supreme Court decision that struck down a key provision of the Defense Of Marriage Act.
For Edith Windsor, the plaintiff who brought the case, the ruling is personal, and she was not totally optimistic it would go her way.
"No, no. I prepared three speeches," Windsor told reporters in Greenwich Village. "One was 'total win,' one was 'as applied,' which was a possibility, and one was 'total loss.' I did not allow myself to assume we'd win."
But win she did, and now, same-sex couples who are married will no longer be denied benefits the federal government gives heterosexual couples who have tied the knot.
Windsor sued the federal government after it forced her to pay $363,000 in estate taxes when her wife died in 2009 and left her property to Windsor. The longtime couple had married two years earlier in Canada. If Windsor had been married to a man, instead of to a woman, she would not have had to pay the bill.
"I felt distressed and anguished that in the eyes of my government, the woman I had loved and cared for and shared my life with was not my legal spouse, but was considered to be a stranger with no relationship to me," Windsor said.
Roberta Kaplan, Windsor's lawyer, said her client belongs among the biggest civil rights figures in American history, people like Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony and Harvey Milk.
"Edie has lit a torch of freedom for generations of Americans to follow," Kaplan said.
"It makes me feel incredibly proud. And humble. Well, do I deserve this? I think some accident of history put me here. Just proud, very proud," Windsor said.
It was not always obvious Windsor would become a gay rights hero. She was in the closet for years. She even wore a diamond circle pin instead of an engagement ring to avoid unwanted questions about her personal life.
"I lied all the time," Windsor said. "Couldn't help it. It's how it felt then. Internalized homophobia is a bitch. And I had some of it. We all had some of it."
For now, Windsor's role in the gay rights movement may be winding down. She said she doesn't have "a ton of years left" and she would "like to relax just a bit."
As far as the money is concerned, her lawyer said Windsor will get every cent of it back, with interest.