Greenwich Village block named for LGBTQ rights activists Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer

June 21, 2023

A Greenwich Village intersection has been co-named after the couple who won a historic battle in the U.S. Supreme Court for gay marriage rights. In a ceremony on Tuesday, the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Washington Square North, right behind Washington Square Park’s Arch, was renamed “Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer Way” in honor of the couple who lived on the corner for 43 years. In 2010, Windsor, who died in 2017, sued the U.S. government over a federal policy that barred same-sex married couples from claiming the estate of deceased spouses, which led the Supreme Court to grant same-sex married couples the same right to federal benefits as heterosexual married couples, according to Patch. Tuesday’s ceremony coincided with what would have been Windsor’s 94th birthday.

During the unveiling of the new street co-name, Gov. Kathy Hochul spoke about the monumental legacy left behind by Windsor and Spyer.

“Sometimes it takes people of courage to stand up against the forces of their time, and that’s exactly what Edie did in manifestation of her love to Thea,” Hochul said on Tuesday.

Hochul continued: “The legacy has been created and that legacy will continue to shine on as a reminder of what tough people – tough New Yorkers, tough women – are capable of doing. So their story will live on through this unveiling.”

Spyer and Windsor met in 1965 and married in 2007 in Canada, where same-sex marriage had been legalized on a federal level. When Spyer passed away in 2009, Windsor was required to pay an exorbitant amount in federal estate taxes due to inheriting her wife’s estate, something that would not have occurred if the federal government had recognized the validity of same-sex marriages.

When she tried to claim an exemption from these federal taxes, she was banned from doing so by Section 3 of the Defense Marriage Act (DOMA), which stated that the term “spouse” can only refer to marriages between a man and a woman. In 2010, Windsor filed a suit seeking a refund for the $363,053 in estate taxes she had to pay for inheriting Spyer’s estate, claiming that DOMA unfairly treated same-sex married couples without justification.

Following the suit, the U.S. Supreme Court discarded DOMA’s definition of “spouse,” and gave same-sex married couples the right to the same benefits as heterosexual married couples.

Image courtesy of Darren McGee/ Office of Governor Kathy Hochul on Flickr

Over their lives, the couple advocated for LGBTQ+ rights, with both of them serving as founding members of the LGBT Center and Sage, New York’s oldest advocacy group for LGBTQ+ elders. They were also involved at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, an LGBTQ+ synagogue formerly located in the West Village, according to Patch. Windsor passed away in 2017.

In April 2022, the Manhattan Community Board 2 voted unanimously in support of co-naming the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and Washington Square North. The Council approved the intersection co-naming that July.


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