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Originally published Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 1:39 PM

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Gay marriage case's Edie Windsor: marriage 'magic'

When Edith Windsor got engaged in the 1960s to the woman who eventually became her wife, she asked for a pin instead of a ring. A ring would have meant awkward questions, she said: Who is he? Where is he? And when do we meet him?

Associated Press

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WASHINGTON —

When Edith Windsor got engaged in the 1960s to the woman who eventually became her wife, she asked for a pin instead of a ring. A ring would have meant awkward questions, she said: Who is he? Where is he? And when do we meet him?

On Wednesday, the 83-year-old stood on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, the face of a case that could change how the U.S. government treats married gay couples. She wore a grey pants suit, a pink and orange scarf and her engagement pin, a circle of diamonds.

Windsor, whose wife, Thea Spyer, died in 2009, sued to challenge a $363,000 federal estate tax bill she got after Spyer's death. The pair married in Canada in 2007. Had Windsor been married to a man, she would not have paid any estate tax.

Windsor said the spirit of her partner of 44 years was watching and listening Wednesday, and she called marriage a "magic word."

"For anybody who doesn't understand why we want it and why we need it, OK, it is magic," she told reporters.

Windsor is asking the court to strike down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage for purposes of federal law as the union of a man and a woman. She said the argument before the court went well.

"I think it went great. I think it went beautifully," she told reporters in front of the court after the argument.

Windsor, who goes by Edie, said public acceptance of gay marriage and gay people has changed since the time when she had to hide behind a pin.

"As we increasingly came out, people saw that we didn't have horns. People learned that we were their kids, and their cousins and their friends," she said.

When the couple's wedding announcement ran in The New York Times in 2007, she said, they received congratulations from hundreds of people, from schoolmates to colleagues.

Even 10 years ago, Windsor said, she would have been "hiding in the closet." But Wednesday she said she was "thrilled and exalted and humbled, very humbled" to be at the court.

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Follow Jessica Gresko on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jessicagresko

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