(WASHINGTON) — Four years after the death of her wife Thea Clara Spyer, Edith Windsor, the 84 year-old widow whose story led to the fall of the Defense of Marriage Act, was finally able to celebrate the historic moment with her memory.
“I looked at her picture and I said ‘Honey it’s done!’” Windsor told ABC News’ Diane Sawyer. “I know what she would say, she would say, ‘You did it honey!’”
The Supreme Court Wednesday struck down a critical part of DOMA, allowing legally married same sex couples to have the same federal rights as heterosexual couples. That case rested on Windsor’s story of fighting for equal recognition by the federal government after the death of her wife in 2009.
Windsor said she cried as she heard the news coming out of the court Wednesday. Later, the president of the United States himself called.
“I spoke to the president this morning and he was absolutely charming,” Windsor said. “He congratulated me and I thanked him for what he had done — for speaking up.”
After 40 years together, Windsor and Spyer married in Canada in 2007. Two years later, the state of New York, where Windsor and Spyer lived together, also began recognizing same sex marriages and that same year Spyer died.
Because of DOMA, when Spyer died, Windsor was hit with a massive federal estate tax — a penalty heterosexual married couples would not have been subject to.
“One of the things I felt did not have to do with the money but had to do with…with my country is not giving dignity to this beautiful person I lived with,” Windsor said. “And today, my country gave dignity and appreciated who she was.”
Their story propelled the case to the nation’s highest court, and their victory Wednesday has breathed new optimism for the gay-marriage movement.
“I think [the court decision is] the beginning of the end because these things do take a very long time,” Windsor said.
She also had a message for gay marriage opponents and skeptics.
“Maybe trust me,” Windsor said. “Okay, I think it will only be better.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Susie East, CNN
David Goldman, CNN