‘In the direction of a Extra Excellent Union: UPS Windsor’ Particulars Groundbreaking Identical-Intercourse Marriage Determination
As of 2015, gay marriage has been the law of the country in all 50 states. But not long ago there was another law in the country. It was called DOMA – the Defense of Marriage Act – and had made same-sex partnerships at the federal level de facto illegal since 1996 and negated the legitimacy of all laws passed by individual states.
Then came Edie Windsor, a brave eighty-year-old part-time Southampton resident who turned history upside down.
Donna Zaccaro’s new film “To a More Perfect Union: US v. Windsor ”is the Sunday Night Spotlight film at the Hamptons Doc Fest and will be screened on December 2nd at 8pm at the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor
The film tells the story of Ms. Windsor’s 40-year relationship with Thea Spyer, including her marriage in Canada in 2007, Ms. Spyer’s death in 2009, and Ms. Windsor’s subsequent lawsuit over a massive estate tax bill that she was supposed to pay, because their marriage was not recognized by the federal government.
In 2013, her lawsuit reached the US Supreme Court, which eventually overturned DOMA. It was a huge win for the gay community, and the film traces the steps of that journey through interviews with Ms. Windsor, who died a year ago, and her lawyer Roberta “Roby” Kaplan. It also shows how Mrs. Windsor found an extended family through Mrs. Kaplan, which included Mrs. Kaplan’s wife Rachel Lavine and her young son Jacob.
At its core, “To a More Perfect Union: US v. Windsor ”is a story of powerful women courtesy of a director and producer who knows all about them.
Ms. Zaccaro’s mother was Geraldine Ferraro, Walter Mondale’s vice-president, who in 1984 became the first woman to be nominated for vice-president by a major American political party. Ms. Zaccaro’s nonprofit production company is called Ferrodonna Features, and in a recent phone interview, she explained why.
“‘Ferro’ means ‘iron’ and ‘Donna’ means me,” said Ms. Zaccaro. “My films are about women and social justice. I don’t think there are enough stories of female leaders and heroes.
“I’m always looking for personal stories that tell a bigger story,” she added.
Ms. Zaccaro, a former producer on NBC’s Today Show, is the CEO of Eleanor’s Legacy. Founded in 2001 by East Hampton-based Judith Hope, the organization supports Democratic women running for office across New York state.
As the group honored Ms. Windsor and Ms. Kaplan after their victory in the Supreme Court, Ms. Zaccaro remembered that she was deeply moved by their speeches.
“I was blown away. It was a wonderful David and Goliath story by an 81-year-old woman who felt that the government was not showing her the respect she deserved,” said Ms. Zaccaro. “The money was one Thing, but Edie found the disregard of their marriage insulting. She took over the government and won. I loved it. “
The film also explores the arc of gay rights in the 20th century and beyond – from the early 1960s, when Ms. Windsor and Ms. Spyer had to hide their relationship from their employers, to Ms. Kaplan’s own journey as a gay woman, including her marriage to Mrs. Lavine and the birth of her son.
“The reason it’s called ‘To a More Perfect Union’ is because it’s not just about the relationship between a married couple or between a lawyer and a plaintiff, our whole country is the union,” said Ms. Zaccaro. “I see this as a step closer to the promise of equality.”
Ms. Zaccaro is delighted that Ms. Windsor saw the finished film twice before her death on September 12, 2017, and shared what it meant to be gay at the time Ms. Windsor and Ms. Spyer first met .
“You were insane and a criminal – when they met in the 60s, that was the environment,” she says. “Young people today don’t know that gays have been prosecuted.
“This case changed what was possible for gays. But at the country level, a number of cases are trying to win it back, ”she added. “I want people not to think that everything is okay now. Given what we saw in the last election, it is not done. “
Ms. Zaccaro said her goal is to get her film to the education market “and places other than the blue states” to show people that love is love, marriage is marriage and family is family.
She added, “As Roby says in the film, anyone can be happy to call Edie Windsor their spouse.”
Thea Spyer may have been the first love in Edie Windsor’s life, but she wasn’t the last. In September 2016, Ms. Windsor married Judith Kasen in New York City Hall. At the time, Ms. Windsor was 87 and Ms. Kasen was 51 years old.
Mrs. Kasen-Windsor will be shown at the screening of “To a More Perfect Union: US v. Windsor ”to speak about her late wife’s legacy.
While the Windsor case was groundbreaking and Ms. Kasen-Windsor determines that fighting still remains, Ms. Windsor believed her case would stand.
“It’s only been five years – and you are still fighting Roe versus Wade 45 years ago,” said Ms. Kasen-Windsor. “Edie was the smartest woman I have ever met. She was convinced that they would not overthrow Windsor. When you’ve done that, you’ll flood the courts with couples asking, what about the kids? What about taxes? Who is playing God with these questions? “
She added, “On the flip side, you may have to defend it state by state in all of the states that are abolishing gender laws where people cannot lose their jobs or cannot adopt couples.
“Edie said when Trump was elected she wasn’t surprised. She also told people, “We have been through worse – we will get through this. … It’s not forever. ‘”
“To a More Perfect Union: US v. Windsor,” directed by Donna Zaccaro, will be the Sunday Night Spotlight film at the Hamptons Doc Fest. The film will be shown at the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor on December 2nd at 8pm. Judith Kasen-Windsor, Edie Windsor’s wife, will attend a Q&A after the screening. For more information, tickets and the full festival schedule, visit hamptonsdocfest.com.