Phyllis Lyon, a major lesbian activist, passed away from natural causes today at the age of 95.
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Lyon (in the above photo on the left) and her Partner Del Martin were major names in the lesbian community. The pair began dating in 1952 and moved in together just a year later on Valentine’s Day 1953. The couple founded the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB), the first organization dedicated to the equality —socially, legally, and politically — in 1955. They also both served as editors of DOB’s in-house magazine, “The Ladder.”
Their activism extended into the fight for marriage equality when Lyon and Martin became the first same-sex couple to get married in California after San Francisco’s City Clerk was ordered to issue marriage licenses to gay couples; however, their marriage was voided in August 2004. Unable to have their legally-recognized love stopped, though, the couple was married again in June 2008 after the state supreme court ruled in favor of marriage equality. The couple was together 56 years when Martin died just two months after their second marriage.
“I am devastated to lose Del, but I take some solace in knowing we were able to enjoy the ultimate rite of love and commitment before she passed,” Lyon said in an obituary submitted by Kate Kendell, a longtime friend of the couple, according to the Bay Area Reporter.
“Phyllis Lyon is truly an iconic figure in the history of LGBTQ and women’s rights,” Kendell wrote in an email statement to the Bay Area Reporter. “Her life was marked by courage and the tenacious belief that the world must and could change. She and her love of over 50 years moved from the shadows to the center of civil life and society when they became the first couple to marry in California after Proposition 8 was struck down in 2008. Few individuals did more to advance women’s and LGBTQ rights than Phyllis Lyon.”