Phyllis Lyon: “It Will Be OK”

Jim Burroway

May 27th, 2009

LGBT civil rights pioneer Phyllis Lyon, along with her partner Del Martin, helped to found the Daughters of Bilitis in San Francisco clear back in 1955. By then, Phyllis and Del had already been together for five years. Their concerns at that time were much simpler than marriage. People were regularly getting fired and thrown out of their homes for being gay. Besides, marriage was just not an option — not even something to fantasize about, as far as they were concerned.

But Phyllis and Del made history by becoming the first same-sex couple to be married in the state of California. They were first twice — once when Gavin Newsom began issuing licenses in 2004, and again for keeps after the California State Supreme Court ruled for same-sex marriage in 2008. Del passed away in August, a married woman.

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Phyllis expressed her disappointment over Prop 8, but she knows that history is on our side:

I’m optimistic about the future. Look at all the states that have now done this. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. They may not all last. But it’s going to be all right. It may not be while I’m alive, but eventually it will work out that if two people want to get married, they can get married and it won’t matter to whom. We went through this before with people of color. It will be OK.

I share her optimism. She knows as well as anyone how far we’ve come. As I said yesterday, it’s time we took the long view because this has been long struggle. There will be setbacks, but there will be more victories. No one could have imagined ten hears ago that we’d where we are today. Prop 22, which limited marriage to opposite-sex couples in California, passed with a margin of 23% in 2000. Eight years later, Prop 8 passed with a margin of just over 4%.

Prop 8 is a huge disappointment today, and we are all justifiably angry that our rights can be put to a popular vote. No one else has had their rights stripped at the ballot box in the history of this republic. But there will be a time when we will look back on Prop 8 as a blip. Just remember how far we’ve come, and how close we are to achieving equality. And look at where we have equality today in places we never dreamed possible just a yeara ago, let alone nine years ago when Prop 22 passed by a landslide. It may not feel like it today, but we really are getting there. Take heart.


May 27th, 2009

We can’t let this discourage us. Way to go, Phyllis, for reminding us that things have gotten better and will continue to get better!

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