Iconic leaders Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin honored on their wedding day for five decades of historic leadership

(San Francisco, CA, June 13, 2008)—Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights congratulates iconic lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights leaders Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin on their upcoming marriage. The legendary couple, who have been together for 55 years and were the first to wed in February 2004, will marry with the full weight of the California Constitution supporting their loving commitment at San Francisco City Hall on Monday, June 16 at 5:01 p.m. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom will officiate.

Lyon and Martin are recognized civil rights movement leaders and have devoted their lives to working towards LGBTQ 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 LGBTQ 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. Lyon and Martin helped to ensure that the fundamental right to marry under the California Constitution belongs to all couples, including lesbian and gay couples. They were plaintiffs in the landmark lawsuit that secured marriage rights for same-sex couples in California. On May 15, 2008 the California Supreme Court ruled that California could no longer exclude lesbian and gay couples from the right to marry.

“Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon are the founding mothers of the lesbian rights movement,” said Kate Kendell, Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). “In the 1950’s, when it was unthinkable to be openly lesbian or gay, Del and Phyllis and a very small band of incredibly courageous contemporaries risked everything to end the isolation and invisibility, to give a strong voice to lesbians, and to bring problem of the crushing discrimination out of the darkness and into the light. Every LGBTQ person on this planet owes them an endless debt.”

“The National Center for Lesbian Rights owes much of its success and milestone achievements to Del and Phyllis,” noted NCLR Founder and now San Francisco Superior Court Judge Donna Hitchens. “When I was a law student, Del and Phyllis were a source of true inspiration. No one could match their courage, tenacity and generosity.”

“After 55 years of the commitment and sacrifice Del and Phyllis have made to all of us and to each other, it is fitting that we honor them by having these two amazing forces of nature be the first couple legally married in California,” said former NCLR Executive Director Roberta Achtenberg. “They quite simply made their own special day possible for themselves and for the many, many couples who will follow them in making a vow of love and support to each other, finally with the power of the law behind them. This has been a long time coming and it is about time.”

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.