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Edie Windsor dead: LGBT rights activist and lead plaintiff in US vs Windsor dies aged 88

The Independent logo The Independent 13/09/2017 Sally Hayden
© Provided by Independent Print Limited

Edie Windsor, the American gay rights activist whose fight for same sex marriage led to a landmark Supreme Court ruling, has died aged 88.

Her wife Judith Kasen-Windsor confirmed her death to The New York Times.

Windsor's fight for recognition of same-sex married couples began after the death of her first wife, Thea Spyer, who she had been engaged to for more than forty years before they finally married in Canada in 2007.

Ordered to pay $363,053 (£273,670) in federal estate tax, she argued that defining marriage as something between a man and a woman was unconstitutional, as it stopped her from getting a tax deduction given to married couples.

The seminal 2013 Supreme Court case, United States v Windsor was successful and for the first time married couples of the same sex were granted federal recognition.

The case is credited with paving the way for the 2015 Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which gave same-sex couples the right to marry across the US.

"The world lost a tiny but tough-as-nails fighter for freedom, justice and equality," Mrs Kasen-Windsor told reporters. "Edie was the light of my life. She will always be the light for the LGBTQ community, which she loved so much and which loved her right back."

In a statement, Barack Obama said he last spoke to Windsor a few days ago and told her what a difference she had made in the US.

"Because people like Edie stood up, my administration stopped defending the so-called Defense of Marriage Act in court," he said. "The day that the Supreme Court issued its 2013 ruling in United States v. Windsor was a great day for Edie, and a great day for America - a victory for human decency, equality, freedom, and justice."

Other politicians, activists and and celebrities also paid tribute to the feted New York-resident.

"In standing up for herself, Edie also stood up for millions of Americans and their rights," tweeted Bill Clinton. "May she rest in peace."

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