Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Truly Sad Day - Del Martin, Lesbian Pioneer Passes

No, I'm not talking about the DNC. Although I still can't get over AT&T sponsoring Obama...gee a short time after he supported immunity for the telecom industry for BREAKING OUR CONSTITUTION, or MBNA Joe - Mr Biden who is the head of the democratic wing of the credit card supported bankruptcy bill in 2005 which is the reason why so many people are in debt to this day. Biden's son was even a lobbyist for MBNA, which was purchased by Bank of America. Granted, Biden is based in Delaware, home to MBNA. His support of that bill, however, is what put this country in the sad state of debt we see now, which is evident by the unending ads on tv and radio for debt consolidation. This bill gave all the credit card companies free will to raise interest rates, minimum balances and basically hold anyone with even a little credit card debt hostage.

Anyway, enough of that. Onto to the truly sad news.

We have lost a pioneer in the LGBT equal rights movement.

Del Martin died today at the age of 87. Del was a gay rights activist since the 1950's, and one of the courageous pioneers of our gay rights movement in American.

She co founded the monumental DAUGHTERS OF BILITIS with her partner Phyllis Lyon. Lyon and Martin were the first couple to be married by Mayor Newsom in San Francisco on the first day gays could legally marry. They had been together 56 years when they were finally able to be married.

The Daughters of Bilitis was the first national lesbian organization in the United States. In addition to founding this organization, Martin was an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights and also involved in The National Organization for Women (NOW) and the Alice B Toklas Democratic Club. She is the author of the book Lesbian/Woman published in 1972, which chronicles the history of the lesbian movement and Lesbian Love and Liberation in 1973. Both co authored with her wife.

Lyon and Martin also helped form the Council on Religion and Homosexuals in 1964, bringing together leaders of both to try to forge unity and awareness. For those of you very familiar with our LGBT movement, she was also a leader in the campaign to overturn the American Psychiatric Associations classification of homosexuality as a mental illness (which occurred finally in 1973).

About The Daughters of Bilitis, lesbian historian Lillian Faderman declared, "It's very establihsment in the midst of witch-hunts and police harassment was an act of courage since members always had to fear that they were under attack."

They were also the first couple to be wed in 2004 when Newsom decided to test state law by marrying same-sex couples in San Francisco.

In recent years both Del and Phyllis were involved in another important issue: aging in America. She founded the organization Old Lesbians Organizing for Change and served in 1995 on the White House Conference on Aging.

Shores and Martin met in 1952 when they were a secretary and a bookkeeper.

When they were finally legally wed two months ago, Martin's daughter from her previous marriage - Kendra Mon - was quoted as saying, "It's really a big deal for them and for me. It's like icing on the cake and a reminder of how far we've come."

As truly devastating as this loss is, and how easy it is to truly fall into sadness, it's important to remember and celebrate this glorious person, this full life and all the important contributions Martin made to all LGBT people.
When we stand on the shoulders of giants, she is certainly gargantuan. When Hillary Clinton mentioned in her speech on this Wednesday night at the DNC that one must move forward and keep fighting for change, Martin was definitely one who lived this mantra for the last 60 years.

In honor of her life and work, I encourage you to make a donation to the National Center for Lesbian Rights, run by another pioneer and fearless advocate for lesbian rights Kate Kendell, who continues the work today started by Martin and Shores. Martin has deeply involved in NCLR over the years since it's creation, and her family requested in lieu of flowers, to make a donation towards the No on 8 Pac at

In a public statement today, Kendell called Martin, "A personal hero, transformative icon, deeply cherished role model and friend" and followed with a "pledge to honor her unsurpassed legacy by working every day to keep alive her vision for full equality and justice for all of us." (Kendell is pictured to the left of Del and Phyllis weeping during their nuptuals)

Here's a video of Del and Phyllis speaking about the start of DOB at a panel sponsored by the GLBT Historical Society in San Fran.

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