Legendary gay rights activist Edith ‘Edie’ Windsor has died at the age of 88.

The former computer programmer for IBM, who was the plaintiff in the 2013 United States Supreme Court case that struck down a federal law defining marriage as between a man and a woman, died in New York on Tuesday (September 12).

News of Windsor’s death was confirmed to the New York Times by her wife Judith Kasen-Windsor, who said: “The world lost a tiny but tough-as-nails fighter for freedom, justice and equality.”

As the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 2013, Windsor helped same-sex couples couples in America gain federal recognition for the first time.

Ms. Windsor sued the US government after being denied a tax refund afforded to married heterosexual couples when her fiancée of 40 years and wife of two years, Thea Spyer, died in 2009.

Edith Windsor (r) sued the US government after being denied a tax refund afforded to married heterosexual couples following the death of her first wife, Thea Spyer, in 2009.

The historic ruling is credited with helping to pave the way for nationwide marriage equality, which came via another Supreme Court ruling two year later, in 2015.

Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said that the United States had “lost one of this country’s great civil rights pioneers.”
“The wheels of progress turn forward because of people like Edie, who are willing to stand up in the face of injustice,” Romero said in a statement. “One simply cannot write the history of the gay rights movement without reserving immense credit and gratitude for Edie Windsor.”

Figures including former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former US President Barack Obama paid tribute to Ms. Windsor after news of her death broke on Tuesday.

Ms. Clinton tweeted: “Edie Windsor showed the world that love can be a powerful force for change. She will be greatly missed.”

Mr Obama said in a statement: “America’s long journey towards equality has been guided by countless small acts of persistence and fuelled by the stubborn willingness of quiet heroes to speak out for what’s right.

“Few were as small in stature as Edie Windsor – and few made as big a difference to America.”

GLAAD, the American LGBT media monitoring organisation, also remembered Windsor on Twitter, saying: “Edie Windsor was a hero and her contributions to the fight for equality and acceptance will be remembered forever.”

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