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Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon

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Del Martin (born May 5, 1921) and Phyllis Lyon (born 10 November 1924) are an American lesbian couple known as feminist and gay-rights activists. They were married on June 16, 2008 in the first same-sex wedding to take place in San Francisco after the California Supreme Court's decision in In re Marriage Cases legalized same-sex marriage in California.[1]

Del MartinEdit

Del Martin was born Dorothy Taliaferro on May 5, 1921, in San Francisco. She was salutatorian of her class, the first to graduate from George Washington High School. She was educated at the University of California, Berkeley and at San Francisco State College, where she studied journalism, and she has a D.A. from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. She was married for four years to James Martin, whose name she retained after their divorce. [2][3] She has one daughter, Kendra Mon. [4]

Phyllis LyonEdit

Phyllis Lyon was born November 10, 1924 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.[5] She holds a degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, earned in 1946. During the 1940s, she worked as a reporter for the Chico Enterprise-Record, and during the 1950s, she worked as part of the editorial staff of two Seattle magazines.[3]


Martin and Lyon met in Seattle in 1950 when they began working for the same magazine. They became lovers in 1952 and entered into a formal partnership in 1953 when they moved to San Francisco together although unable to legally marry.[2][5][3] Many years later, Lyon and Martin recalled how they learned to live together in 1953. "We really only had problems our first year together. Del would leave her shoes in the middle of the room, and I'd throw them out the window," said Lyon, to which Martin responded, "You'd have an argument with me and try to storm out the door. I had to teach you to fight back."[6]

On February 12, 2004, Martin and Lyon were issued a marriage license by the City and County of San Francisco after mayor Gavin Newsom ordered that marriage licenses be given to same-sex couples who requested them.[7] Photo here.

The license, along with those of several thousand other same-sex couples were voided by the California supreme court on August 12, 2004.

Del is 83 years old and I am 79. After being together for more than 50 years, it is a terrible blow to have the rights and protections of marriage taken away from us. At our age, we do not have the luxury of time.

–Phyllis Lyon

However, they were married again on June 16, 2008, after the California Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage legal. Once again they were the first couple married in San Francisco, in fact the only couple married that day by the mayor.[8] Photo here.


Daughters of BilitisEdit

Main article: Daughters of Bilitis

In 1955, Martin and Lyon and six other lesbian women formed the Daughters of Bilitis, the first major lesbian organization in the United States. Lyon was the first editor of DOB's newsletter, The Ladder (Magazine), beginning in 1956. Martin took over editorship of the newsletter from 1960 to 1962, and was then replaced by other editors until the newsletter ended its connection with the Daughters of Bilitis in 1970. [2][3]

Within five years of its origin, the Daughters of Bilitis had chapters around the country, including Chicago, New York, New Orleans, San Diego, Los Angeles, Detroit, Denver, Cleveland and Philadelphia. There were 500 subscribers to "The Ladder," but far more readers, as copies were circulated among women who were reluctant to put their names to a subscription list. [7]

For their pioneering work on The Ladder, Martin and Lyon were among the first inductees into the LGBT Journalists Hall of Fame, which was established in 2005 by the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association.

Lyon and Martin remained leaders of the DOB until the late 1960s, when they were replaced by women who were perceived as more radical and who had different goals for the organization. The Daughters of Bilitis disbanded not long after Martin and Lyon's leadership ended.[7]

National Organization for WomenEdit

Martin and Lyon have been active in the National Organization for Women (NOW) since 1967. Del Martin was the first openly lesbian woman elected to NOW.[4] Lyon and Martin worked to combat the homophobia they perceived in NOW, and encouraged the National Board of Directors of NOW's 1971 resolution that lesbian issues were feminist issues.[7]

Alice B. Toklas Democratic ClubEdit

Template:Expand The Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club was formed on Valentine's Day 1972 at the offices of the Society for Individual Rights near 6th and Market St in San Francisco. The founding member was James Foster, who was the first gay man to speak at a national political convention. He spoke to the need for inclusion of gays and lesbians in the political process. Though Lyon and Martin were not able to attend this first meeting, they became members soon thereafter. The first motion the club passed was in support of the marijuana initiative. Among the founding members were Gary Miller and Ron Bentley. The purpose of the club is to support candidates who are supportive of gay and lesbian rights and help them get elected to public office. Among its earlier presidents were Jo Daly and Gary Miller (1975). In 1975 the club endorsed George Moscone for mayor over Dianne Feinstein. The club changed its name to the Alice B Toklas Gay and Lesbian Democratic Club.

Lyon-Martin Health ServicesEdit

Template:Expand Lyon-Martin Health Services was founded in 1979 by a group of medical providers and health activists as a clinic for lesbians who lacked access to nonjudgmental, affordable health care. Named after Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, the clinic soon became a model for culturally sensitive community-based health care.

Since 1993, Lyon-Martin also has provided case management and primary healthcare in programs specifically designed for very low-income and uninsured women with HIV . In 2007, the organization added sliding-scale mental health services.

Old Lesbians Organizing for ChangeEdit

In 1989, Martin and Lyon joined Old Lesbians Organizing for Change.

Senior activistsEdit

In 1995 Martin and Lyon were named delegates to the White House Conference on Aging. Martin by Senator Dianne Feinstein and Lyon by Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi.


In 2003 filmmaker Joan E. Biren released a documentary film on the couple, No Secret Anymore: The Times of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, available from Frameline and broadcast on PBS.


Books are written by both Martin and Lyon except where noted:

  • Lesbian/Woman (1972), about lesbian life in modern America.
  • Lesbian Love and Liberation (1973), about lesbians and sexual liberty.
  • Battered Wives (1979), by Martin, blamed American domestic violence on institutionalized misogyny.[7]


  1. Lagos, Marisa. "Newsom Marries Activist Couple",, 2008-06-16. Retrieved on 2008-06-16. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Del Martin", About. Retrieved on 2007-02-11. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "Del Martin & Phyllis Lyon", The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Religious Archives Network, 2005-08-04. Retrieved on 2007-02-11. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Belge, Kathy. "Del Martin", About. Retrieved on 2007-02-11. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Belge, Kathy. "Phyllis Lyon", About. Retrieved on 2007-02-11. 
  6. Hull, Anne. "Just Married, After 51 Years Together; Activist Gay Couple Accepts Leading Role." The Washington Post. Washington, D.C.: Feb 29, 2004. p. A.01.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Gianoulis, Tina. "Lyon, Phyllis, and Del Martin", glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture, 2004-03-04. Retrieved on 2007-02-11. 
  8. "Big Day For Lesbian Couple Of 55 Years",, 2008-06-16. Retrieved on 2008-06-16. Archived from the original on 2008-06-20. 

See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Bullough, Vern L. (ed.) Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context, Harrington Park Press, 2002.
  • Gallo, Marcia M. Different Daughters: A history of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Birth of the Lesbian Rights Movement, Carroll & Graf, Martin

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