Edie Windsor’s unrelenting advocacy led to a landmark ruling in the United States: overturning the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), signed into law by ex-president Bill Clinton. A section in the act upheld that marriage would only be federally recognized as between a man and a woman. The fight began when Windsor’s wife and lifelong partner, Thea Spyer, passed away, and Windsor was denied tax exemption on Spyer’s estate.
Windsor filed a lawsuit against the government, and two years later, a judge ruled Section 3 of the DOMA unconstitutional, paving the way for spousal recognition for same-sex couples.
The ill-fated English writer, poet, and novelist Virginia Woolf had an extramarital relationship so life-changing that it inspired an entire novel as she dealt with the question of her sexuality. Virginia Woolf, at the time married to Leonard Woolf, fell in love with Vita Sackville-West, herself a highly acclaimed author.
Their affair would become historical. Woolf pursued many same-sex dalliances throughout her life and was very frank about her pursuits. However, the bond between her and Sackville-West remained unbroken throughout.
Evan Wolfson joined “Lambda,” the gay rights law firm founded by Bill Thom, in 1989. Wolfson held a prestigious and prominent position at the law firm for well over a decade. He specialized in same-sex unions and was instrumental in challenging federal laws discriminating against LGBTQ+ people from receiving the same legal recognition as heterosexual couples.
Wolfson founded “Freedom to Marry,” a bipartisan organization that advanced the fight for equal marriage rights. The organization successfully disbanded once it achieved its goal in 2015 after the United States government federally recognized same-sex marriages.
The flamboyant and groundbreaking artist Frida Kahlo defied every cultural imposition placed on her. The openly bisexual Kahlo had relationships with both men and women that she felt no need to keep secret, paving the way to becoming a cultural icon and figurehead in different social activism and justice spheres.
Although Kahlo passed away in 1954 at the very young age of forty-seven, her art and likeness became synonymous with both the LGBTQ and feminist movements of the twentieth century. Kahlo explored sexuality through her artworks, and the international recognition she gained helped advance the LGBTQ+ narrative in modern society.
New Yorker Christine Jorgensen became nationally famous for being one of the first transgender women to undergo a complete sexual reassignment in the 1950s. The operation was highly publicized, and Jorgensen used the opportunity to advocate and speak on behalf of transpeople nationwide, giving lectures and holding meetings with political officials throughout her life.
By her admission, Jorgensen envisioned a life out of the limelight, but this was not to be. The highly talented performer went on to create a prosperous career as a singer and actress, and her groundbreaking transition was a celebration.