Sunday, October 30, 2016

October 30 - Phyllis Lyon & Del Martin

Phyllis Lyon & Del Martin

Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin are the only couple I've written about this month, and as remarkable as they are as individuals, they were probably stronger (and I think they would agree with this) as a pair. Martin and Lyon first met in 1950 through work and began dating two years later and moved to San Francisco together a year after that. In 1955, the couple formed the nation's first lesbian political organization, the Daughters of Bilitis, which was a social alternative to bars as well as a support group. Lyon began a newsletter for the group, The Ladder, which reached over 500 subscribes in its first five years. For this, Lyon and Martin were the first inductees into the LGBT Journalists Hall of Fame. They remained active with the DOB until the late 1960s, when they joined the National Organization for Women; Martin was the first lesbian elected to the group. She was also the first lesbian appointed to the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women (by the city's mayor in 1977), and she brought the issues lesbians faced to the forefront of both organizations' focus. They also fought to decriminalize homosexuality and to persuade ministers to accept LGBT people into churches. The couple were so well-known and respected in San Francisco that a group of medical providers who were opening the first clinic aimed at lesbians who couldn't afford quality healthcare was named after them in 1979 as Lyon-Martin Health Services. They continued to be active in local political agendas well into the 1980s, and the couple were jointly appointed delegates to the White House Conference on Aging in 1995, following work they had begun with Old Lesbians Organizing for Change. In 2004, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon were the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license in San Francisco. In 2008, they were again the first same-sex couple to be married when the California Supreme Court reversed its 2004 position against marriage equality. Sadly, Del Martin died mere months later, with Phyllis Lyon at her side. They had been together for more than fifty years.

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