Del Martin Dies
I know you all think that I'm just here, out and proud and all that jazz and yes it's true. I am. However, the ability for me to be that way started many years ago with the hard, hard work done by Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon. Rest in peace, Del. You did excellent work.
NATIONAL CENTER FOR LESBIAN RIGHTS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 27, 2008
Community Mourns the loss of beloved Civil rights leader Del Martin, 87
(San Francisco, California, August 27, 2008) - Today, the lesbian, gay,
bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community lost an iconic leader and a
beloved friend. Del Martin, 87, passed away in San Francisco with Phyllis
Lyon, her lifelong partner and spouse, by her side. Martin was one of the
nation's first and most visible lesbian rights activists who dedicated her
life to combating homophobia, sexism, violence, and racism. Martin's many
contributions to the LGBT movement will resonate for decades to come.
"Today the LGBT movement lost a real hero," said Kate Kendell, Executive
Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "For all of Del's
life, she was an activist and organizer even before we knew what those
terms meant. Her last act of public activism was her most personal --
marrying the love of her life after 55 years. In the wake of losing her,
we recognize with heightened clarity the most poignant and responsible way
to honor her legacy is to preserve the right of marriage for same-sex
couples, thereby providing the dignity and respect that Del and Phyllis'
Martin began working as an activist after receiving her degree in
journalism from the University of California at Berkeley. While working on
a newspaper in Seattle, Martin met her partner Phyllis Lyon and the two
began working on behalf of lesbians in their community. Martin and Lyon
have devoted their lives to working towards LGBT equality, healthcare
access, advocacy on behalf of battered women, and issues facing elderly
Americans. Their many contributions over the past five decades helped
shape the modern LGBT movement.
In 1955, Lyon and Martin were among the founders of the Daughters of
Bilitis, the first lesbian rights organization. In 1956, they launched
"The Ladder," the first lesbian newsletter, which became a lifeline for
hundreds of women isolated and silenced by the restrictions of the era.
Del Martin was the first openly lesbian woman elected to the board of the
National Organization of Women (NOW), and in 1971, encouraged the board to
pass a resolution stating that lesbian issues were feminist issues. In
1995, Martin and Lyon were named delegates to the White House Conference
on Aging by Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. In
2004, Lyon and Martin became the first same-sex couple to be married in
the state of California, and subsequently became plaintiffs in the
California marriage case, helping to ensure that the fundamental right to
marry under the California Constitution belongs to all couples, including
"Del lived her life with great compassion, wit, tenacity, generosity, and
valor," said The Honorable Donna Hitchens, Founder of the National Center
for Lesbian Rights. "She inspired thousands of us to be more courageous
and energetic than we thought possible. When faced with moments of
fatigue, laziness or weakness, one had only to ask - 'What would Del and
Phyllis do?' While she will be greatly missed, her legacy will be
Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon were married in California on June 16, 2008
after 55 years together.
"Ever since I met Del 55 years ago, I could never imagine a day would come
when she wouldn't be by my side. I am so lucky to have known her, loved
her, and been her partner in all things," Lyon said. "I also never
imagined there would be day that we would actually be able to get married.
I am devastated, but I take some solace in knowing we were able to enjoy
the ultimate rite of love and commitment before she passed."
Gifts in lieu of flowers can be made to honor Del's life and commitment
and to defeat the California marriage ban through NCLR's No On 8 PAC at