Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Gay rights pioneer Del Martin dead at 87

Advocate reports:
Del Martin, who just this past June wed her partner of nearly 55 years when gay marriage was legalized in the state of California, died Wednesday morning with her wife, Phyllis Lyon, by her side, according to the National Center for Lesbian Rights. She was 87.

Martin and Lyon became the first couple to legally tie the knot in California, on June 16. The pair first married in 2004 after San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom ordered the city of San Francisco to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The marriage was later overturned in the courts. “They [Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon] defined, from my perspective, what marriage was supposed to be about,” Newsom said from the LGBT Caucus at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. "Years ago, to put a human face on the issue of gay marriage, we called Phyllis and Del to be the test case. Del Martin came to her [second] wedding in a wheelchair. Del and Phyllis were on their way to their 56th anniversary.... We had a gift of a lifetime -- to allow them both to say 'I do' yet again.” MORE reports:
Del 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 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.

“Today the LGBT movement lost a real hero,” Kate Kendell, Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights said in a statement. “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’ love deserved.” READ MORE

Dorothy L. (Del) Martin (May 5, 1921 – August 27, 2008)