JUNE 21: Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement (…


When Edith Windsor sued the federal government for making her pay excess taxes on her deceased wife’s estate, she paved the way for the overturning DOMA (The Defense of Marriage Act). Her name and the name of her late partner, Thea Spyer, went down in history, but it
wasn’t until June 21, 2009 when the documentary Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement was released and the world
came to know the real life love story behind the landmark civil rights case.

The film opens with Edie and Thea combing through old photos
of themselves from their younger days. A photo of Edie in a pink swimsuit
flicks onto the wall and a wheelchair-bound Thea says “Yeah I love that girl…and
the person who took that picture also loves that girl” and my first thought is
“Oh no this is going to make me cry.” The rest of the film is much of the same –
old photos, cute banter, and me crying. Edie and Thea first met in 1963 at a
restaurant called Portofino in Greenwich Village, which was a popular hang out
spot for New York lesbians. From that night forward, the two kept running into
each other at various gay bars and clubs and always made a point to dance with
each other before the night was over. It wasn’t until a particular weekend trip
to the Hamptons where they “made love all afternoon and went dancing all night
and that was the beginning.”

Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer proudly hold up their marriage certificate (x).

Thea was a respected psychologist, Edie was a head manager
at IBM, and the year was 1967. In order to hide the true nature of their
relationship from their coworkers, Thea created a make-believe older brother
named Willy who was dating Edie, but in reality, the two were engaged and
living together in the gay haven of Greenwich Village; instead of a traditional
wedding ring, Edie wore a circular diamond pin on her shirt almost every day
for the next forty years. When New York City legalized domestic partnerships,
Edie and Thea went to city hall immediately and were one of the first 100
couples to be issued a certificate. Thea suffered a heart attack in 2002 and
when her health began to rapidly deteriorate in the following years, the two
decided to get married for real in Toronto, Canada on May 22, 2007. Although
Thea’s doctors had given her less than a year to live, they were able to be
each other’s wives for two years before Thea passed away on February 5, 2009. Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement captures a fleeting moment in time. The pure love and sweetness that radiates from the documentary is probably best summed up when Thea, clutching her
wife’s hand and sitting in their living room, says, “We have been dancing for
forty-two years. It’s slowed down a little now, but we still manage.”