After the death Tuesday of Edith Windsor — whose landmark Supreme Court case struck down parts of a federal anti-gay-marriage law and paved the way toward legalizing same-sex nuptials nationwide — lawmakers, celebrities and other public figures were quick to honor her legacy and contribution to LGBT rights.
She was 88. She died in New York, her lawyer Roberta Kaplan said.
"America's long journey towards equality has been guided by countless small acts of persistence and fueled by the stubborn willingness of quiet heroes to speak out for what's right," former President Barack Obama said in a statement. "Few were as small in stature as Edie Windsor — and few made as big a difference to America."
Obama said he spoke with Windsor a few days ago and told her "one more time what a difference she made to this country we love."
When Windsor was 81, she brought a lawsuit that led to a major moment for gay rights. The genesis of the lawsuit was the death in 2009 of her first wife, Thea Spyer. They were married in 2007 in Canada — where same-sex marriage was already legal — after spending more than four decades together.
Windsor said the federal Defense of Marriage Act's definition of marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman prevented her from getting a spousal exemption from inheritance taxes on Spyer's estate. That meant Windsor faced a $360,000 tax bill that the surviving spouse in a heterosexual couple would not have.
Fast-forward to June 2013, when the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that an essential section of the law was unconstitutional and that legally married same-sex couples are entitled to the same federal benefits that heterosexual couples receive.
But the journey to marriage equality didn't end there. The opinion in Windsor's case became the basis for several federal court rulings that struck down state same-sex marriage bans and led to a 2015 Supreme Court ruling giving gay and lesbian couples the right to marry across the country.
Below, a roundup of public figures who took to social media to pay tribute to Windsor:
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.
"If you really care about the quality of somebody's life as much as you care about the quality of your own, you have it made."— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) September 12, 2017
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
Edith Windsor made this country better. Her courage means millions of Americans can now marry the person they love. #LoveWins— Sen Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) September 12, 2017
Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y.
Condolences to all of Edith's family and friends. Let us all honor Edith by standing up to injustice everywhere. ?? 2/2— Rep. Joe Crowley (@repjoecrowley) September 12, 2017
Former President Bill Clinton
In standing up for herself, Edie also stood up for millions of Americans and their rights. May she rest in peace. https://t.co/9nNazdmnPP— Bill Clinton (@BillClinton) September 12, 2017
Former NYC City Council Speaker Christine Quinn
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez
America lost a hero today. You were a trailblazer for the generation of LGBTQ activists we see making change today — thank you, Edie. pic.twitter.com/vPx5QCsqJV— Tom Perez (@TomPerez) September 12, 2017
Edie Windsor showed the world that love can be a powerful force for change. She will be greatly missed. https://t.co/EiSFYE7ip0— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 13, 2017
Very sad to read of Edith Windsor's passing. Our world is better for her life. Keeping her wife Judith, all her family & friends in my heart https://t.co/K3HebHZhyb— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) September 12, 2017
Edie Windsor was a hero and her contributions to the fight for equality and acceptance will be remembered forever. https://t.co/ZlaLiKTiaJ— GLAAD (@glaad) September 12, 2017
Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio
A hero for the cause of equality. Rest In Peace, Edie. https://t.co/iq94nvqzjc— Congressman Tim Ryan (@RepTimRyan) September 12, 2017
Filmmaker Dustin Lance Black
Actress and former talk show host Rosie O'Donnell
Actor George Takei
Edith Windsor changed history by winning her case and ushering in marriage equality. Her legacy will live on forever. Rest in peace, Edie. pic.twitter.com/CluylYFz4f— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) September 12, 2017
Actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson
R.I.P. Edith Windsor. Your passion will always inspire me. You left a deep imprint on this world. Thank you! https://t.co/HpFhox8zHG— Jesse Tyler Ferguson (@jessetyler) September 12, 2017
Talk show host Andy Cohen
Rest in peace Edith Windsor. We'll be grateful to you for the rest of our lives... https://t.co/RvisofSlBB— Andy Cohen (@Andy) September 12, 2017
Tennis star Billie Jean King
Today we lost Edith Windsor whose bravery and commitment led to marriage equality and landmark protection for the LGBT community.— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) September 13, 2017