Wendy Stark and Edie Windsor cut the ribbon to dedicate Callen-Lorde’s Thea Spyer Center, which will provide mental health services to the LGBT community at 230 West 17th Street, with Brendan Fay and Assemblymember Dick Gottfried looking on. | DONNA ACETO
Edie Windsor’s name was immortalized as the named plaintiff in the 2013 US Supreme Court decision that won federal recognition for married same-sex couples. On November 3, her late spouse’s name was given a place of honor as the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center dedicated its building at 230 West 17th Street as the Thea Spyer Center, providing mental health services to the LGBT community.
Thea Spyer was a “celebrated clinical psychologist,” Windsor said at the dedication ceremony, serving at the Veteran’s Administration, as director of the Psychiatric Clinic at the International Center for the Disabled, and as clinical consultant in rehabilitation at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Westchester.
Jim Obergefell, the 2105 Supreme Court marriage equality victor, with Callen-Lorde’s Wendy Stark, Glennda Testone, executive director of the LGBT Community Center, Edie Windsor, and her spouse, Judith Kasen. | DONNA ACETO
Spyer was wheelchair-bound toward the end of her life, but traveled to Canada in 2007 with the assistance of Marriage Equality NY and the Civil Marriage Trail to wed Windsor. The marriage was recognized in New York as of the following year even though the state did not perform such marriages itself until 2011. When Spyer died in 2009, Windsor sued the federal government to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act and be treated as Spyer’s surviving spouse and save $363,000 in inheritance taxes and other survivor benefits.
“On the day she died, she was scheduled to see two patients,” Windsor said.
Wendy Stark, executive director of Callen-Lorde, said that this mental health center, opened two years ago, is one of five of the agency’s locations and already has a waiting list for appointments, a situation she called “unacceptable.”
State Assemblymember Dick Gottfried, chair of the Health Committee, said, “We need more community health centers” to meet the demand.
Jim Obergefell, the named plaintiff in the Supreme Court case in 2015 that ended state bans on same-sex marriage, traveled from Washington to be with Windsor.
“Edie invited me and there was no way I would miss it,” he said. Commenting on the threat to the balance of the Supreme Court — as well as to his victory — in this week’s election, Obergefell said, “I’m very much concerned. I try to hold on to what our attorneys at the Supreme Court said — that they tend not to take away rights they’ve granted.”
In September, Windsor married Judith Kasen, who joined her at the ceremony.
Edie Windsor (r.) with family members of Thea Spyer, including Dr. Virginia Spyer, Dr. Patricia Spyer, Karen Sauvigne, and Benjamin Freeman. | DONNA ACETO