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Lesbian widow behind DOMA challenge: 'I think it's gonna be good'

Defense of Marriage Act opponent Edie Windsor discusses Wednesday's hearing at the Supreme Court.

As gay-marriage supporters and opponents and media pundits parsed the syntax of Supreme Court justices after two days of hearings, the elderly woman who brought one of the historic cases went with her gut.

"I think it was great," said Edie Windsor, 83, the lesbian widow who challenged the federal Defense of Marriage Act after she was made to pay $363,000 in inheritance taxes that a heterosexual would not have faced.

"I think it went beautifully. I thought the justices were gentle," she said, speaking off the cuff instead of reading from a speech someone wrote for her.

"They were direct, they asked all the right questions.  I didn't feel any hostility or any sense of inferiority...I felt we were very respected and I think it's gonna be good."

A retired computer programmer who lives in Manhattan, Windsor was engaged to longtime love Thea Spyer in the 1960s but stayed in the closet. Her ring was a brooch that wouldn't give away her secret.

She didn't go public with her sexuality until she and Spyer got hitched in Canada in 2007.

Their announcement in the New York Times brought good wishes from hundreds of friends and acquaintances they had known through the decades and affirmed Windsor's belief that being married was different than just living together with a diamond pin to symbolize their commitment.


"It is magic," she said.

Two years later, Spyer, who had suffered from multiple sclerosis for years, died. Weeks later, Windsor had a heart attack -- a real life "broken heart," she said.

"In the midst of my grief, I realized the federal government was treating us as strangers," refusing to recognize her marriage and socking her with a massive estate tax bill like a single person, she said.

Windsor sued, and lower courts declared DOMA was discriminatory and unconstitutional, setting the stage for the Supreme Court to make a final determination.

"Today is like a spectacular event for me," she said, describing how she wore hearing aids to make sure she would not miss a word of the historic oral arguments.

The justices' questions on Wednesday suggested they are likely to strike down DOMA when they rule in June, and Windsor said she was "thrilled, exalted and humbled."

Crowds outside chanted "Edie! Edie!"-- and Windsor's thoughts went to the "beautiful, sparkling, brilliant" person who couldn't be there.

"I know the spirit of my late spouse Thea Spyer ... is right here watching and listening and would be very proud and happy of where we've come to," she said.

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