New York, September 13, 2017 Gay rights activist Edith Windsor, whose same-sex marriage fight led to a landmark US ruling, has died aged 88.
Her death was confirmed to the New York Times by her wife Judith Kasen-Windsor. She died in New York.
“The world lost a tiny but tough-as-nails fighter for freedom, justice and equality,” the BBC quoted Kasen-Windsor as saying.
“Edie was the light of my life. She will always be the light for the LGBTQ community, which she loved so much and which loved her right back,” she added.
Edith Windsor’s Supreme Court case struck down the Defence of Marriage Act in 2013, granting same-sex married couples federal recognition for the first time.
She had sued the US government after being ordered to pay $363,053 in federal estate tax after her previous wife, Thea Spyer, died. The couple had been partners for 44 years and had married in Canada in 2007.
Windsor, known as Edie, argued that the provision of the law which defined marriage as between a man and a woman prevented her from getting a tax deduction due to married couples – and was “unconstitutional”.
In the landmark 2013 ruling, the US Supreme Court agreed – and that decision became the basis for a wave of further court rulings increasing the rights of same-sex couples.
In 2015, another crucial Supreme Court ruling gave same-sex couples the right to marry.
Remembering the gay rights trailblazer Edith Windsor, former US Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama also paid their tributes.
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
“Few were as small in stature as Edie Windsor – and few made as big a difference to America,” Obama said. While Clinton tweeted: “In standing up for herself, Edie also stood up for millions of Americans…” (IANS)
On a sunny day in a park in Taipei, photographer Austin Haung advises a same-sex couple on how to pose for a pre-wedding, marriage photo shoot. For him, Taiwan’s reputation as a beacon of liberalism in the region means a thriving business.
“Our clients are mostly same-sex couples from overseas, including Hong Kong, Singapore, China and Malaysia,” said 32-year-old Haung, who hopes to turn his side job into a full-time business targeting homosexual newlyweds from across the region.
“They said Taiwan is a reassuring place to do the shoot…If they do this in their own country, they worry about being identified or people raising eyebrows,” he said.
In Asia’s first such ruling, Taiwan’s constitutional court declared in May last year that same-sex couples had the right to legally get married, and set a two-year deadline for legalization.
On Saturday, Taiwan will hold a series of public votes on whether its civil law should now recognize same-sex marriage, after its election authority approved contradicting referendum petitions from both conservative and rights groups.
The issue has divided Taiwan, at family dining room tables, online and on the streets, with large-scale rallies.
Haung, who is gay, plans to vote for same-sex marriage, but his mother Zeng, in her early 60s, staunchly objects. In fact, she has rallied relatives and friends to support the opposing referendum that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
“There’s no need to protect gay marriage. If so, there will be more homosexuals in society,” she said. “The younger generation has their own ideas, but I disagree regardless of what they say.”
Rights activists say the conservative referendum is “discriminatory” as it goes against a 2017 court ruling that current laws violate the right to freedom of marriage and equality.
The heated debate over whether to legalize same-sex marriage presents a challenge to President Tsai Ing-wen, who rights activists say has backed away from her promise of marriage equality in the run-up to elections in 2016.
The same-sex marriage votes coincides with Taiwan’s mayoral and magisterial elections, a test of confidence for Tsai’s government grappling with domestic reforms as well as rising pressure from China, which considers the island its own.
“I hope Tsai Ing-wen could undertake the leadership responsibility. The issue has been delayed for so long due to a lack of policy direction from the ruling party,” said Jennifer Lu, coordinator of the Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan.
“The government should protect the rights of marriage for all Taiwanese.”
Taiwan’s capital Taipei has a celebrated annual gay pride parade that showcases the vibrancy of its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. The one-week celebration in October, largest in the region, contributed more than $3.3 million to the economy, according to daily Taipei Times.
LGBT-related businesses are thriving in Taiwan where liberal attitude has earned it a reputation as Asia’s “gay capital.”
A hub for LGBT rights activists is the Gin Gin bookshop, which was raided by police in 2003 and 500 magazines seized.
“We have fought a long fight and now have loyal customers coming to our shop at least once a year from all over the world,” said Yang Pingjing, one of the bookshop’s owners.
Located in an alley at the heart of Taipei with rainbow flags leading up to the staircases, the owner of a decades-old
bathhouse for men said his business is now often packed and receives many customers from overseas.
“I’m not too worried about my business,” said Yu Nanxian, owner of 24-hour Hans Men’s Sauna. “Once a gay man, you will always be a gay man, no matter the result of the referendum.” (VOA)