We don’t use the word “hero” lightly, but the late Edie Windsor — activist, advocate, trailblazer and part-time Southampton resident whose landmark Supreme Court case in 2013 brought us marriage equality and granted federal recognition to same-sex couples — is unquestionably a hero to the LGBTQ community and to those who celebrate civil rights.
She also threw a great barbecue every Memorial Day weekend in her backyard in Southampton, and this year the tradition happily continues on Saturday, May 28 when Edie’s Backyard BBQ returns (after a two-year absence, due to the pandemic).
Hosted by Windsor’s surviving spouse, Judith Kasen-Windsor, proceeds from Edie’s Backyard BBQ will benefit the Edie Windsor Healthcare Center at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, whose mission is “to provide accessible, compassionate, comprehensive, state of the art care to all members of the LGBTQ+ community and to people living with HIV infection,” says Kasen-Windsor, an activist in her own right.
Judith Kasen-Windsor is more than busy these days. As a financial vice president advisor/portfolio manager, she is a member of one of the largest independent teams that works with Wells Fargo.
But her passion for all-things-Edie and her tireless advocacy for LGBTQ+ causes and efforts to carry on the legacy of Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer, Windsor’s longtime partner of 42 years and first spouse, is unparalleled.
(After Spyer’s death, the fact that Windsor was hit with a $363,000 estate tax — which she would not have normally received if the government had recognized her legal rights in her marriage to Spyer — spurred Windsor to sue the U.S. government, which lead to the landmark legal victory.)
“I feel honored and grateful to keep Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer’s continuing legacy in terms of helping the community they loved so dearly, not to mention their lifetime of grassroots altruism creating the thriving community we have today. There is ALWAYS more work to do,” says Kasen-Windsor.
We caught up with Judith Kasen-Windsor to talk about Edie’s Backyard BBQ, her many passion projects, and of course, the Edie Windsor Healthcare Center.
Judith Kasen-Windsor Discusses Edie Windsor’s Legacy
When did Edie’s Backyard BBQ become an annual thing?
I don’t know exactly when it became an annual thing, but pretty early on they (Edie and Thea) used to have a party on the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend to bring the community back together (for the season) …
After Edie won the Supreme Court case, that’s when it became a fundraiser so it really wasn’t a fundraiser until 2013, right around in there — that’s when it became a fundraiser for the (LGBTQ+) community.
Where did the proceeds from the BBQ fundraising go?
The fundraising went to EEGO, East End Gay Organization, then Ligaly Gay Organization and eventually LGBT Network … when Edie passed in 2017, in 2018 there was the basement flood at the house, so we had the BBQ over at the rental house … that first year I had it with Hetrick Martin (Institute).
In 2019 it was back in the backyard where it belongs — that’s when it became the fundraiser for Stony Brook Southampton Hospital and specifically the Edie Windsor Healthcare Center. We had around 350 people there, it was very successful.
You must be excited after two years of no BBQ to bring it back this season.
We have a huge host committee and have gotten a terrific amount of sponsors. Almond, 75 Main, we have the liquor store in Southampton (Herbert and Rist), we have Wolffer Estate, we have me, Wells Fargo advisors, and the Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer Foundation … But this specifically goes to the Edie Windsor Center.
We picked the hospital, we did an analysis — a geographical analysis of patients from Montauk to Islip — that’s why we picked the atrium (for the location in Hamptons Bays); it’s like triple the amount of space when they were over at Meeting House Lane (in Southampton).
And I was talking to Dr. (Eric) Lella (the director of the Edie Windsor Center) and he said we’re already growing out of that space, we’re already trying to expand. The patient load is already bigger and the mental health facility part of it we really want to expand.
Your whole demeanor changes when you talk about the Edie Healthcare Center
Nothing is more important than your health. Nothing.
We have the only community healthcare center on Long Island — it is for LGBTQ+ people because there is nowhere on Long Island where somebody on Long Island can really handle a trans person and their transition with hormonal therapy or mental health therapy.
We’re really working with the Edie Windsor Center to expand the mental health part of the center … that’s something we’re really, really focused on — it’s not just health issues but also the mental health of Long Island. It’s very important
We have the Rose Walton Care Center (for HIV and AIDS care) but we have the Edie Windsor Healthcare Center which is like the umbrella for everything … it’s an LGBTQ community healthcare center but it’s still for everyone — we have plenty of allies who use it.
What’s great about the Edie Windsor Center is they’ll send you where you need to go … they’re a great conduit to get you names and numbers and appointments within the Stony Book Southampton Hospital system.
Where did you and Edie meet?
I met Edie going to all of these events. I was an activist and I went to the Emory Awards, I went to the Center Dinner, I went to Callen Lorde … I definitely met Thea in 2008 and she passed away in February of 2009 and I was still kind of seeing Edie around, here and there.
Then Edie got the lifetime achievement award at SAGE in 2010 and that’s when lightning struck — she was up there giving her speech and it was like there was this white light on her and it was just like — kind of a movie scene — nobody else was in the room and looking at Edie. I can’t explain it, I wish I could, but I can’t. But I knew.
When did you and Edie start dating?
We started dating in 2015 and we got married September 2016, a little less than a year (later) … I had asked her out many, many times — but once we went out on our first date that was it and we got married after the summer of 2016. People often ask me ‘How long were you two married? And I always say “forever.”
She was so fascinating and smart, wasn’t she?
Going through the archive now, I just found the letter from IBM where she had the highest technical rank at IBM — there were only her and five other people, there were six people who had the highest technical rank at IBM and this was like the late ’60s — so in this day and age, she’d be like an Elon Musk, that’s how forward she was.
Coding and understanding COBOL and Fortran and all those languages — we don’t even have a clue, but that’s how computers function.
And yet I remember her at events, dancing and sparkling …
Right. She was really fun, but she was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.
You are so active — what projects have your attention these days?
It’s everything. I’m involved in the SAGE center, so that’s LGBTQ+ elders, I’m involved with Callen Lorde and Hetrick Martin, that’s LGBTQ+ youth.
There’s going to be an exhibit from June through October at the New York Historical Society and museum in the main hall to the left — there’s her (Edie’s) supreme court suit, her scarf, her shoes, her amicus brief, pictures of her and Thea …
I’m working on her archive which is going to NYU, the New York Historical Society Museum and the Obama Foundation and Library — so you know we have a technology pioneer, we have a civil rights icon, we have a woman …
Leave us with a favorite Edie Windsor quote.
Oh, I have a few that I especially love to repeat:
“Getting married is a very big deal and it’s an even bigger deal if you have been denied it.”
“It was suddenly wonderful not to be left behind in the closet.”
“Marriage is a magic word. And it is magic throughout the world. It has to do with our dignity as human beings, to be who we are, openly.”
Join Judith Kasen-Windsor at Edie’s Backyard BBQ to benefit the Edie Windsor Healthcare Center at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital. It will be held on Saturday, May 28 from 1–4 p.m. at a private residence in Southampton.
All proceeds raised at this event will be directed to the center’s Emergency Fund, which supports the underserved and underinsured communities. It will provide assistance with items such as personal care supplies, nutrition, transportation, counseling and other support services.
The Edie Windsor Healthcare Center at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital is located at 182 Montauk Highway, Building B, Suite D, Hampton Bays. Call 631-287-5990 for info.
Out East End Picks
EDIE’S BACKYARD BBQ
Saturday, May 28, 1–4 p.m.
The annual tradition is back to kick off summer! In honor of Edie Windsor, proceeds from this fun, festive BBQ benefit the Edie Windsor Healthcare Center. With Holly B as the DJ.
For tickets: call 631-726-8700 or email [email protected]
LGBT NETWORK SUMMER KICK-OFF
Saturday, May 28, 6–8:30 p.m.
Bridgehampton Tennis & Surf Club
It’s the annual summer kick off party with open bar, silent auction and DJ Chris Keyloun.
For info: lgbtnetwork.org
OUT EAST END PRIDE COCKTAIL PARTY AND SALON NIGHT!
Friday, June 3, 6–8 p.m.
Julie Keyes Gallery, 35 Main Street, Sag Harbor
Kick off Pride month with Dan’s Papers Out East End Salon Night: Performances, cocktails, music, art. Must RSVP and show proof of COVID vax. Limited guest list!
RSVP to: [email protected]
HAMPTONS PRIDE PARADE
Saturday, June 4, lineup at 11 a.m., parade at noon
East Hampton Village
Celebrate the first Pride parade out east.
Register your group, vehicle, band or float at: hamptonspride.org