To A More Perfect Union: U.S. V. Windsor – Another Year, Another Decision

In Film, The Menu by Jennifer ParkerLeave a Comment

From the moment you decide to have a wedding and not elope it can be a shit show of details. The wedding industrial complex includes shelves devoted to magazines at newsstands, television shows like, Say Yes to the Dress, themed weddings, destination weddings, religious, civil and skydiving ceremonies, and an entire jewelry racket to navigate.  Weddings rank right up there with death in terms of stressful life events. The last thing two men who have decided to devote their lives together need is a baker who thinks he is holier than they. Gay or straight or somewhere in between, most men are unhappy multitaskers. Busy grooms to be have other things to worry about like who gets to sit with whom and if someone is going to give them away.  The devil is in the endless details, not the bedroom. Choosing the perfect cake should be the fun part. Right?



Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer (Photo Credit: To a More Perfect Union: U.S. v. Windsor)

It seems both maddening and somewhere between apropos and serendipitous that To A More Perfect Union: U.S. V. Windsor is being released the same week as the Supreme Court Ruling in favor of the Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for two men.  HA.  It’s like the great interpreters of the laws of our land can’t make up their fucking minds. I’m not a legal scholar so here goes: Justice Kennedy who wrote the majority decision cared about the intent and the potential fallout from the ruling as not being the beginning of the erosion of gay rights in our country.

“The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts,” he wrote, “all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.

Thea Spyer and Edie Windsor (Photo Credit: To a More Perfect Union: U.S. v. Windsor)

What I think he is saying is that the same baker can’t refuse to sell a ready-made cake to a customer who has the means to buy one or at least, they shouldn’t. I could be way off but I also think he’s saying that a cake is not representative of all art and that this was a specific case and the lower courts still have to fight things out when people refuse services based on religious beliefs.  Like a lot of moderate liberals, I have a bit of a soft-spot for Justice Kennedy so it feels like the great and powerful albeit quiet one has spoken and I don’t know how to feel except befuddled.

It’s difficult to imagine Edie Windsor without perfectly coiffed hair, a strand of pearls and expertly applied lipstick. When describing  Ms.Windsor, it’s hard not to compare her to Jackie Kennedy. She was beautiful, brilliant and a person in her own right A look born of another era yet timeless. Ms. Windsor was many things in her lifetime: the wife of the woman she adored, a mathematician at IBM and the woman who

Edie Windsor while working at IBM (Photo Credit: To a More Perfect Union: U.S. v. Windsor)

sued the United States Government for not recognizing her same-sex marriage to Thea Spyer as legitimate for the purposes of federal benefits (principally estate taxes )upon the death of her spouse in 2009. Without the petite, blond, pearl-wearing, always perfectly dressed octogenarian, it is quite possible there would not be marriage equality in the United States.

Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer Canadien Wedding (Photo Credit: To a More Perfect Union: U.S. v. Windsor)

Edie Windsor in front of the United States Supreme Court (Photo Credit: To a More Perfect Union: U.S. v. Windsor)

Edie Windsor in her Manhattan Apartment (Photo Credit: To a More Perfect Union: U.S. v. Windsor)

When Edie Windsor was a young woman, being an out lesbian was not an option in our country. Homosexuality was still classified as a disorder. By the time she was in her 80s things had certainly changed and Roberta Kaplan, a talented lawyer with the blessing and backing of her former law firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison navigated Ms. Windsor’s case to the Supreme Court. Filmmaker, Donna Zaccaro weaves a  forty-year love story, a lengthy court case and the lives of Ms. Kaplan and her family into a poignant narrative peppered with talking head interviews with the well-known advocates including Rossie O’Donnell and NPR’s Legal Correspondent, Nina Totenberg.  What makes the film work is we know marriage equality is the law of the land for the last five years and we check that knowledge at the box office. We experience what Edie experiences, we witness the numerous disappointing phone calls, newspaper articles, and press conferences. Zaccaro deftly creates dramatic tension where theoretically there shouldn’t be any. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) caused tsuris in bedrooms, boardrooms, state and local governments and the US Supreme Court. It was ruled unconstitutional on June 26, 2013. Edie Windsor died in September 12, 2017 at the age of 88. Ms. Windsor fought for what she believed in so that others would not have to. Court decisions like people (particularly the good ones) seem to have a finite lifespan. Zaccaro has enabled Edie Windsor to live in perpetuity.

Runtime: 63 Minutes
Directed by Donna Zaccaro
For Showtimes and more information of To a More Perfect Union



Jennifer Parker is a Manhattan-based writer and mother. The editor in chief of StatoRec, Jennifer’s film criticism and author profiles have appeared in At Large Magazine, Fjords Review and the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Leave a Comment