The Windsor Heart, a tribute to gay rights activist Edith Windsor, will be unique among a growing collection of memorials honoring the woman who fought for marriage equality. Set on the lawn of Southampton Town Hall, the sculptural tribute “will be a place where all people can come get married,” said Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, who designed what he dubbed The Windsor Heart.
Ms. Windsor’s widow, Judith Kasen-Windsor, had reached out to the supervisor, in the hope of creating a memorial to her spouse in the town where she summered for over 40 years. Locally, Stony Brook Southampton Hospital named the Edith Windsor Center for the activist in 2019, and there are literally dozens of memorial titles, street signs, and scholarships named for her throughout the national and New York City LGBTQ community.
But The Windsor Heart Project will be different and, seeing Mr. Schneiderman’s design, Ms. Kasen-Windsor said she was thrilled. She’s pressed for recognition of her widow and said there are close to 20 things named after Edie, from a scholarship at NYU to a street in her hometown of Philadelphia, to a SAGE center in Midtown Manhattan, “The list is endless and it just keeps growing and growing,” Ms. Kasen-Windsor related.
“I spoke to Jay and I said, ‘What about naming a street or a statute or something?’ And he came up with the concept of the heart, and I was thrilled with it. I didn’t think it was even a concept … when he came back to me with that, I was like, ‘Jay, this is amazing,’” she said this week.
The project will comprise a setting that includes an altar for the officiate, two platforms for the intended and benches bordering the site.
The front facade of the altar will be inscribed with the popular slogan from the campaign for same sex marriage equality, “Love Wins.” Stone benches surrounding the heart will be inscribed with inspirational quotes about love.
The focal point of the site will be a heart-shaped stone platform of interlocking smaller hearts. Mr. Schneiderman created an interlocking heart pattern by developing mathematical tessellation, an arrangement of shapes in a repeated pattern. “Many hearts comprising one heart is symbolic of the coming together of many people to achieve marriage equality,” he said. The individual stones may be etched with names of loved ones or couples who get married there, with proceeds from the sale of hearts used to defray the cost of creating and maintaining the tribute.
All money for the memorial will be privately raised. Earlier this month, the Southampton Town Board voted to convene a committee to pursue the establishment of the tribute and a dedicated fund.
Town Clerk Sundy Schermeyer was among those selected to serve on the committee.
“When the marriage equality legislation first went into effect, as the town’s marriage officer, I had an influx of calls from couples looking to book appointments to be married,” she said. “I was amazed at the length of time the first several rounds of couples had been together; 59 years was the longest, 50-plus years, 40-plus years, and so on. Every wedding was a celebration of the path toward marriage equality built by Edith Windsor when she won her own case in Supreme Court. This wedding venue will be a fitting tribute to honor Edie’s extraordinary life.”
Ms. Windsor was the lead plaintiff in a landmark case that resulted in the Supreme Court decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act. DOMA, as it was called, denied same sex couples the rights heterosexual couples have.
When her partner of 40 years, and, thanks to a wedding in Canada, wife of two years, Thea Spyer died in 2009, Ms. Windsor inherited her estate. The Internal Revenue Service denied her the unlimited spousal exemption granted to heterosexual couples and taxed Ms. Windsor over $350,000. She sued, and in 2013 the court ruled in her favor, the decision lauded as huge stride on the path towards marriage equality.