As we head toward the tail end of Pride month, it may be difficult to think of the world that existed long before the commercialization of rainbow products. With the return of Queer Eye, and RuPaul's Drag Race finishing its 10th season, the non-LGBTQ world may forget that we still live in a state where it's legal to fire someone just for being gay. Enter the powerful documentary, To A More Perfect Union: U.S. v. Windsor. It screens at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 26, at the Capitol Theatre and concludes the Capitol's Pride Month film series.
Edie Windsor was an American LGBTQ rights activist and a technology manager at IBM. After the death of her (legally recognized only in Canada) wife, Thea Spyer, Windsor found herself inundated with problems. As the executor and sole beneficiary of Spyer's estate via a revocable trust, Windsor was required to pay $363,053 in federal estate taxes on the inheritance of her wife's estate.
Had federal law recognized the validity of their marriage, Windsor would have paid no federal estate taxes. Windsor desperately wanted the legal validity of her more than 40-year relationship with the love of her life, and was willing to go to through the legal system to get it.
Recognizing the travesty, lawyer Roberta Kaplan offered to represent Windsor pro bono and was the lead plaintiff in the 2013 Supreme Court of the United States case United States v. Windsor, which successfully overturned Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act and was considered a landmark legal victory for the same-sex marriage movement in the United States.
To a More Perfect Union offers an intimate look at Windsor as a gay rights pioneer, and its correlation with the Stonewall Riots, the AIDS crisis, the Defense of Marriage Act and other staples of LGBTQ history.
The documentary is incredibly touching, predominantly due to the subject matter, but it takes a paint-by-numbers approach to the story telling. Archival footage, talking heads, and a few celebrity cameos all take their traditional place — which isn't surprising given director Donna Zaccaro's previous documentary Paving the Way is a heartfelt look at the life of her politically trailblazing mother, Geraldine Ferraro.
U.S. v. Windsor was profoundly important in the fight for marriage equality, serving as the penultimate case before the full establishment of gay marriage rights two years later in Obergefell v. Hodges. To A More Perfect Union is a wonderful film, albeit more educational than entertaining.