overview

Portofino, an Italian restaurant in the South Village that was frequented on Friday evenings by lesbians, was the meeting place in 1963 of Edith “Edie” S. Windsor and Thea Clara Spyer.

Windsor became known for challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2013.

Header Photo
Credit: Christopher D. Brazee/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, 2016.

History

One former restaurant location in Greenwich Village has taken on historic significance in light of the path-breaking Supreme Court decision in “United States v. Windsor” in 2013. Portofino, which operated here from around 1959 to 1975, was an Italian restaurant in the South Village that was a discreet meeting place frequented on Friday evenings by lesbians. The case that overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act, argued by Roberta A. Kaplan, had its roots in the meeting here in 1963 of Edie Windsor and Dr. Thea Clara Spyer.

The couple eventually married in Canada in 2007 and Windsor challenged the act after receiving a large tax bill from inheriting Spyer’s estate.

Entry by Jay Shockley, project director (March 2017).

NOTE: Names above in bold indicate LGBT people.

Building Information

  • Architect or Builder: Bernstein & Bernstein
  • Year Built: 1902-03

Sources

  1. Jay Shockley, “The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Community’s Presence in the South Village,” South Village Historic District Designation Report (New York: Landmarks Preservation Commission, 2013).

  2. Lillian Faderman, The Gay Revolution: the Story of the Struggle (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015).

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