Last Wednesday (27th August), Del Martin died at the age of 87. She and her partner, Phyllis Lyon, had been activists for lesbian rights, and women’s rights more generally, for more than 50 years. They founded the first US lesbian advocacy group in 1955, and began publishing the first newsletter a year later. Del Martin co-founded the Coalition for Justice for Battered Women in 1975, and became recognised throughout the US as a major figure in the campaign against domestic violence.
55 years after they first met, and after years at the forefront of the campaign to secure this right, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon became the first same-sex couple to marry in San Francisco. Their wedding took place on June 16 2008. The (heterosexual) mayor of San Francisco, who officiated at the marriage, said:
“[Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon] defined love, devotion, and constancy, and defined – to my mind – what marriage is supposed to be about.”
It’s wonderful that they finally had the chance to properly celebrate their love for each other.
But what a tragedy that they had to wait until one of them was only 10 weeks away from death for their relationship to be given the respect and recognition it so obviously deserved.