Sep 01, 2008

Lesbian Pioneer Del Martin Dies

Del Martin died yesterday in a San Francisco hospice, with her partner of 55 years, Phyllis Lyon, by her side. The two were married just last month in the first same-sex wedding in San Francisco. 

I don't have much to add to the many eloquent tributes and obituaries that have already been published (for example, at the website of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and in the San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angeles Times). They describe a woman of enormous courage and principle, who stood up for the rights of all people to live their lives with respect and dignity. She was the first open lesbian to serve on the board of directors of the National Organization for Women, and was a driving force behind the campaign to convince the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses.

Along with Phyllis Lyon, Del Martin may have done more to improve the lives of lesbians in the 20th century than anyone else. From the NCLR obituary: "Del Martin identified her own legacy in 1984 when she said that her most important contribution was 'being able to help make changes in the way lesbians and gay men view themselves and how the larger society views lesbians and gay men.'" That legacy will never die.

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