LGBTQ pioneering activist Phyllis Lyon died April 9 in her San Francisco home at the age of 95 as a result of natural causes.
More than an activist for LGBTQ rights; she also fought for civil and elder rights.
In 2004 San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom issued marriage licenses to same sex couples with Lyon and Martin being the first couple to get married. But that marriage was invalidated by the California Supreme Court. Lyon and Del tried again and were the first same sex couple to marry in California in 2008 after the law was passed.
Lyon and Martin met in 1952 while working at the same magazine in Seattle and moved into a flat in San Francisco together in 1953.
The couple; along with three other lesbian couple, formed the Daughters of Bilitis -DOB – in 1955. It became the first lesbian political and social organization in the United States. They also created “The Ladder”, a publication that connected lesbians across the nation.
In 1972 they published a book “Lesbian/Woman” that was said to change lives.
Their activism continued with the first open lesbians to join the National Organization for Women, helped to form the Council on Religion and Homosexuality in Northern California, were active in the first gay political organization in San Francisco – the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, were member of the Old Lesbians Organizing for Change, and were delegates to the White House Conference on Aging,
They were honoured by the ACLU of Northern California for their commitment to civil rights and liberties.
She was born on November 10, 1924 in Tulsa, Oklahoma but grew up in the California capital of Sacramento. She graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a degree in journalism.
After serving as the editor for the Daily Californian while in college, Lyon worked at the Chico Enterprise-Record and on the editorial staff for two Seattle magazines.
Later she was an administrative assistant for the Reverend Cecil Williams of the Glide Memorial Church. While at Glide she and Del had a pivotal role in shaping the inclusivity of LGBT community members in the church.
Lyon held a number of positions throughout her life including the co-founder of the National Sex Forum and was its director for 19 years, and a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality – where she was an innovator of sex education.
Lyon is predeceased by her partner of 58 years, Del Martin; her survivors include her sister Patricia, daughter Kendra, grandchildren Lorri and Kevin, and great-grandchild Kexin.
Feature photo credit: By Brian Kusler – https://www.flickr.com/photos/briankusler/2585515401/in/photolist-5gXtT3-b4KD9R-4WtrDK-f3h2E5-eZeA9q-4WxHMq-4WtrJ8-4WtrFx-9bFM2z-9bJSrG, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=89020604