Michaela Jae Rodriguez
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Gay Rights
Pioneer Del Martin Dead at 87

Del Martin, who
just this past June wed her partner of nearly 55 years
when gay marriage was legalized in 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 invalidated
by the courts.

defined, from my perspective, what marriage was supposed to
be about,” Newsom, speaking from the LGBT
Caucus at the Democratic National Convention in
Denver, said of Martin and Lyon. "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

Lyon and Martin
first met in Seattle in 1950 and entered into a formal
partnership in 1953. Along with six other women, the two
formed the first national organization for lesbians,
the Daughters of Bilitis.

The following
year, the organization put out its first magazine, The
Ladder, which soon attained national circulation.
Martin and Lyon were among the first inductees into
the LGBT Journalism Hall of Fame.

In 1995, Martin
and Lyon were named delegates to the White House
Conference on Aging: Martin by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and
Lyon by Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

“We are
greatly saddened by the passing of such an extraordinary and
courageous woman," Kathryn Kolbert, president of People for
the American Way, said in a statement. "Del
Martin and her partner of 55 years, Phyllis Lyon,
fought for decades to secure equal rights for all
Americans regardless of sex or sexual orientation. In
recognition of their legendary struggle, Del and
Phyllis became the first same-sex couple to wed in
California after the state supreme court mandated equal
marriage rights for gay men and lesbians.

“We can
see in retrospect that the ruling came just in time for Del
and Phyllis to gain what they so dearly deserved --
equal state legal recognition and rights for their 55
years together. It’s wonderful that the recent
legal advances in California enabled such a fitting

A news release
issued by NCLR urged that in lieu of flowers, gifts in
Martin’s name be made online at www.NCLRights.org/NoOn8 to help in
the fight against Proposition 8, the California ballot
initiative to ban same-sex marriage. (The

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