Phyllis Lyon: “It Will Be OK”
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.
Our Godmothers Exchange Vows
June 16th, 2008
The first same-sex marriages took place in California, beginning at just one minute after 5:00 p.m. local time.
This is Phyllis Lyon (right, 83) and Del Martin (left, 87) of San Francisco. They have been together for fifty-five years. They, along with six other women, founded the Daughters of Bilitis in 1955. The Daughters were the first major lesbian organization in the United States. Phyllis edited the DOB’s newsletter The Ladder beginning in 1956. Del edited The Ladder from 1960 to 1962. The Daughters eventually disbanded in 1970 after having established chapters all across the United States
In 1964, they helped found the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, bringing together national religious leaders and gay and lesbian activists for a national discussion of gay rights. Phyllis was also the first open lesbian to serve on the board of the National Organization for Women in 1973. Meanwhile, Del was heavily involved in getting the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.
When Del and Phyllis met in 1950, the very idea that their relationship would someday be recognized by the state must have seemed utterly outlandish. But these pioneers have made a real difference for millions of gays and lesbians the world over, not just here in the United States. You might say that they are godmothers to all of us and our movement. After all these years of their hard work and dedication to the cause of lesbian rights, it’s hard to imagine a more appropriate couple to be the first to marry in San Francisco.
We not only offer our congratulations, but also our deepest thanks for all that Phyllis and Del have done, and all that they represent.
Tom Brokaw: No Gays In His ’60’s
November 26th, 2007
Tom Brokaw’s new book, Boom! Voices of the Sixties is supposed to be a sweeping review of all of the highlights of that pivital decade for social change. Brokaw left virtually nothing untouched: civil rights, the war, feminism, the sexual revolution — all of it is right there in his exhastive review. Except for one thing: There are no gays in the Sixties.
No Stonewall, no protests in front of the White House or Independence Hall, no Civil Service expulsions, none of that is a part of Tom Brokaw’s “Sixties.” And that has 1960’s gay rights activist and icon Frank Kameny livid. Kameny, whose memorabilia was recently featured in a display at the Smithsonian Institution fired off a stirring rebuttal to Brokaw’s silence on a very important part of America in the 1960’s. Reminding Brokaw that “Gay is good” (Frank coined that phrase in 1968.) Kameny reminds Brokaw of the great sweep of history that Brokaw overlooked and demands an apology.