Thursday, August 28, 2008

Del Martin: A Hero for All Lesbians

There's a newspaper clipping on my refrigerator of the first day same-sex marriage became legal in California. It's a picture of Del Martin facing her partner of 55 years, Phyllis Lyon.  After 55 years of a marriage, the two were finally granted that title by the California government. 

Yesterday Del Martin died at age 87. She left behind, not only a widow, but a legacy of fighting for lesbian rights at a time when to do so came at great risk. 

Del Martin may well be remembered for her marriage to her partner of 55 years. And that's not a bad thing. But what I will remember Del for is her early work for women's and lesbian rights. Del and Phyllis were part of a group of women who formed Daughters of Bilitis, the first lesbian organization in the United States in 1955. 

They started the first lesbian publication called The Ladder, which was a lifeline to lesbians in the 1950s who literally thought they were the only ones. She fought for lesbian rights in the women's movement and for women's rights in the gay movement. She and Lyon wrote the groundbreaking book Lesbian/Woman in 1972 about the need for lesbian rights. She also wrote Battered Woman about domestic violence.

Del Martin was the first openly lesbian woman to be elected to a post within the National Organization for Women in 1967. And of course, she and Phyllis were the first same-sex couple to marry in California in both 2004 and in 2008. I can only aspire to leave a fraction of the legacy she leaves behind.

Thank you Del Martin, for paving the path that I walk on today. You are my hero.


Anonymous said...

Wow..I was so moved by Del Martin's and Phyllis Lyon's wedding story in June. I'm so glad they had that before she died. What a legacy.

Lipstick said...

Well said, Dip. A beautiful tribute to her legacy.

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