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I am truly sorry to announce that LGBT civil rights activist and pioneer Del Martin passed away today with her spouse and companion of 55 years, Phyllis Lyon, at her side.

The LGBT community -- the civil rights community -- has lost a great leader.  For those of you unfamilar with Del Martin, she and Phyllis were married on February 12, 2004 by San Francisco Mayor, Gavin Newson.  This act led to a protracted lawsuit that culminated in the recent California Supreme Court Decision striking down the ban on same-sex marriage in California.

While we still face many, many challenges in the LGBT community, it is hard to grasp where we would be without Del's courage.  She was brave enough to face down bigotry in an era long before politicians ever dared claim they were in favor of equal rights for the LGBT community.  

More on Del Martin from Equality California, http://www.eqca.org/... :

Del Martin met the love of her life, Phyllis Lyon, in Seattle in 1950 when they worked for the same publication company. They became lovers in 1952 and formalized their partnership on Valentine’s Day in 1953 when they moved in together in San Francisco. In 1955, they bought the small home that has been theirs ever since.

In what would prove to be an act that would change history, Martin, Lyon, and six other lesbians co-founded the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) in San Francisco in 1955. DOB, which was named after an obscure book of lesbian love poetry, initially was organized to provide secret mutual support and social activities. It became the first public and political lesbian rights organization in the United States, laying a foundation for the women’s and lesbian and gay liberation movements that flowered in the early 1970s and continue today.

Del Martin used her writing and speaking talents to challenge misconceptions about gender and sexuality. "We were fighting the church, the couch, and the courts," she often remembered years later, naming the array of social and cultural forces early activists confronted when homosexuals were treated as immoral, mentally ill, and illegal. As the first President of DOB, she penned stirring calls to arms. "Nothing was ever accomplished by hiding in a dark corner. Why not discard the hermitage for the heritage that awaits any red-blooded American woman who dares to claim it?" She was the second editor (after Phyllis Lyon) of DOB’s groundbreaking monthly magazine, The Ladder, from 1960 to 1962 and ushered in a new decade of political engagement and media visibility for the nascent gay rights movement.

As an early member of the National Organization for Women (NOW), Del Martin worked to counter homophobia within the women’s movement – fear of the so-called "lavender menace." She and Lyon were the first lesbians to insist on joining with a "couples’ membership rate" and Martin was the first out lesbian on NOW’s Board of Directors. Their efforts helped to insure the inclusion of lesbian rights on NOW’s agenda in the early 1970’s.

Del fought the medical industry on behalf of the LGBT community and was an advocate for the rights of battered women:

For many years, Del Martin was a leader in the campaign to persuade the American Psychiatric Association to declare that homosexuality was not a mental illness. This goal was finally achieved in 1973.

*****
Del Martin’s publication of Battered Wives in 1976 was a major catalyst for the movement against domestic violence. Martin became a nationally known advocate for battered women, and was a co-founder of the Coalition for Justice for Battered Women (1975), La Casa de las Madres (a shelter for battered women) founded in 1976, and the California Coalition against Domestic Violence (1977).

Del -- thank you for your courage and your spirit.  Without your tenacity and unwillness to live life shuttered in by social repression and fear, my family and I would not have the freedoms we have today.

For more on Del's life and work, go to http://www.eqca.org/...

According to Equality California, gifts in honor of Del can be made to Equality California's No On 8 campaign (to defeat the marriage ban on the ballot in California) can be made to: http://www.nclrights.org/...

Originally posted to TichMarie on Wed Aug 27, 2008 at 02:32 PM PDT.

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