Top photo: Goken Tunc
Bottom photo: Ali Oz
Now this is what I call a love story:
“‘Do you agree to live, be happy and resist together until death do you apart,’ the registrar asked the couple while the guests chanted ‘Everywhere is resistance, everywhere is love,’ adapting with a pinch of humor for the occasion the protest’s most famous motto. An LGBT activist who took the floor made them promise to not get angry with their child if he or she happened to be gay.”
-"Police seal off Istanbul’s Gezi Park ahead of protester couple’s wedding," Hurriyet Daily News
One evening in 1965, Edith “Edie” Windsor (b. 1929) met Thea Spyer at Portofino, an Italian restaurant in New York’s West Village. As the evening blossomed into night, they found themselves at a friend’s impromptu apartment party, dancing until the early hours of the morning — so intensely that Edie danced a hole through her stockings. As they parted ways that night, they didn’t meet again for another two years, until they eventually crossed paths on Memorial Day weekend of 1967, at a friend’s house in the Hamptons.
"It was a feeling of complete delight in being with her. I had a real sense of ‘I’ve landed in my life,’” Thea — by then Dr. Spyer, a clinical psychologist with a private practice in Manhattan — recalled of that encounter. A few months later, they were engaged. It was the landing of a love that would last nearly half a century.
For the next four decades, the two waltzed together through life and love, and Edie devoted herself to taking care of Thea, whose health was slowly being claimed by the esurient grip of multiple sclerosis and who eventually became fully quadriplegic. In 2007, the couple was lawfully married in Ontario, Canada — a marriage legally recognized in New York under common-law principles of comity. When Spyer died in 2009, she left her entire estate to Windsor, who believed she’d qualify for the federal estate tax exemption for surviving spouses. But Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act maintained that the term “spouse” only applied to a marriage between a man and woman and not to same-sex marriages. Bereaved after having just lost the love of her life, Edie now found herself owing the Internal Revenue Service $363,053 in estate taxes.
So, she sued the government for this undemocratic and allegedly lawful injustice.
On November 9, 2010, Windsor filed a lawsuit seeking a refund due to DOMA’s discrimination against legally married same-sex couples who so systematically and flagrantly receive “differential treatment compared to other similarly situated couples without justification.” Over the two years that followed, Edie tirelessly pushed the case up the ladder of the legal system, from the District Court to the Court of Appeals to, finally, the Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments on March 27, 2013.
On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 in favor of Edie and her case, deeming DOMA unconstitutional “as a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment.” The court wrote:DOMA’s principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal. The principal purpose is to impose inequality, not for other reasons like governmental efficiency. […] DOMA undermines both the public and private significance of state-sanctioned same-sex marriages; for it tells those couples, and all the world, that their otherwise valid marriages are unworthy of federal recognition. This places same-sex couples in an unstable position of being in a second-tier marriage. The differentiation demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects, see Lawrence, 539 U. S. 558, and whose relationship the State has sought to dignify. And it humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples. The law in question makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives. Under DOMA, same-sex married couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways.
That day, President Obama called Edie to deliver the happy news — a landmark moment in the history of American democracy and human equality, made possible by the unrelenting spirit of a widow in her eighties.Love is a million things. It’s like the word marriage… It’s magical. It’s hard, I hadn’t thought about it. There’s a hunk of a poem by Auden: “For now I have the answer from the face That never will go back into a book But asks for all my life, and is the Place Where all I touch is moved to an embrace, And there is no such things as a vain look.”
Thank you, Edie, for everything that will never go back into a book.
See ya, DOMA. And it’s the perfect time to bring back my favorite 90s Newsweek cover.
Love, love, love.
I know the future is open and unpredictable. My style, though, is to want to close it — to make it predictable — at least the immediate future (3 months, 6 months, a year) or the longer future with respect to my most intimate relations. A completely open, unpredictable future makes me horribly anxious. I can’t imagine how I will function (because I assume functioning in an effective, creative — not blundering — way entails making plans). Of course, I’m fairly confident that I could function somehow — but on a lower level — even if I have no certainties before me. But it has never really occurred to me, I now realize, that this is anything but an undesirable (and, in the case of love, extremely painful and destructive) limitation. It’s as if I’m supposed to walk through a forest without being allowed to inform myself whether or not it’s full of wolves. Sure, I’ll cross the forest anyway— but it seems just stupid, a pointless risk, that I wasn’t allowed to inform myself first, when I know the information is available.
[There are two vertical lines next to this sentence in the margin.] Only now do I see the limits of my view of life — how carefully I limit surprise, risk-taking, unanticipated sources of change.
The fact is that I have been unusually loose and open to risk-taking in matters of work— tolerant and relatively anxiety-free in work situations that seem to arouse intolerable amounts of anxiety and insecurity in most other people. But I have been so damned cautious, self-protective, uninventive, anxiety-prone, and needful of reassurance in matters of love. I am so very much more cool, loose, adventurous in work than in love. So much more inventive. So easily convinced that if ‘this’ doesn’t work out, something else will — that there’s always ‘more.’ Just what I don’t feel about people — whether friends or lovers.
[In the margin:] ‘scarcity economy of love.’
Song: “Best Laid Plans” by Stoney