DEL MARTIN, feminist and Gay rights pioneer, was born on this date (d. 2008). Born Dorothy Louise Taliaferro “Del” Martin, along with her wife Phyllis Ann Lyon they were an American Lesbian couple known as feminist and gay-rights activists. They were a couple until Del’s death on August 27, 2008 and two of the single most important pioneers in the LGBT Civil Rights movement, on a par with Harry Hay
Martin and Lyon met in 1950, became lovers in 1952, and moved in together on Valentine’s Day 1953 in an apartment on Castro Street in San Francisco. They had been together for three years when they founded the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) in San Francisco in 1955, which became the first social and political organization for lesbians in the United States. They both acted as president and editor of The Ladder until 1963, and remained involved in the DOB until joining the National Organization for Women (NOW) as the first lesbian couple to do so.
Both women worked to form the Council on Religion and the Homosexual (CRH) in northern California to persuade ministers to accept homosexuals into churches, and used their influence to decriminalize homosexuality in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They became politically active in San Francisco’s first gay political organization, the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club, which influenced Dianne Feinstein to sponsor a citywide bill to outlaw employment discrimination for gays and lesbians. Both served in the White House Conference on Aging in 1995.
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. Martin died from complications of an arm bone fracture in San Francisco. Phyliss Lyon passed in April 2020.