At age 83, Edith Windsor gets plenty of compliments for her courage to take on the federal government in a landmark case that has put attitudes about gay America squarely before the Supreme Court. But the Philadelphia-born former IBM executive scoffs at how much gumption was necessary to go to court at a time when societal views of gay relationships are shifting. "The world has progressed," Windsor says. "At the beginning of World War II, they really did think we had horns." Windsor's lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan is one of two that the Supreme Court agreed to take up Dec. 7 when it announced it would hear arguments over California's ban on same-sex unions and Windsor's dispute about federal benefits for legally married gay couples. "It's very joyous," Windsor said in a recent interview at her apartment on Fifth Avenue in lower Manhattan. "I feel like everybody's treating me like a hero. Everybody thinks it takes enormous courage." It was a moment she could not fathom when her heart nearly gave out after the 2009 death of her spouse, Thea Clara Spyer, less than two years after their marriage in Canada. Windsor suffered an attack of stress cardiomyopathy, also known as broken heart syndrome, that was so bad that her heart stopped.
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