“I now pronounce you wife and wife”

Meet the lesbian pioneers who will be San Francisco's first legally married same-sex couple.

Topics: Gay Marriage, Broadsheet, San Francisco, Coupling, Love and Sex,

"I now pronounce you wife and wife"

If you cry at weddings, grab a hankie; the news of these upcoming nuptials already has me tearing up at my desk. Next Monday, June 16, at 5 p.m. PDT, Mayor Gavin Newsom will preside over the marriage of Del Martin, 87, and Phyllis Lyon, 83, at San Francisco City Hall, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

You may well remember these two brides from their first trip to the altar back in February 2004. Martin and Lyon, who have been together more than 50 years, were the first same-sex couple to be issued a marriage license by the city of San Francisco. (For a refresher, their iconic wedding photos are here and here.)

Mayor Newsom has said that Lyon and Martin’s love story inspired him to start issuing marriage licenses to lesbians and gays. But the couple’s first marriage license and those of more than 4,000 other couples who got hitched during San Francisco’s Winter of Love were later ruled invalid by the courts. Undaunted, Lyon and Martin became plaintiffs in the lawsuit that in May led the California Supreme Court to rule that same-sex couples do have a right to marry.

This isn’t the first time that Lyon and Martin have broken new ground. Back in the ’50s, they were also pioneers, founding the country’s very first lesbian organization. “The couple first met in Seattle in 1950 and moved in together in a Castro Street apartment on Valentine’s Day 1953,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle. “Two years later, Lyon and Martin and three other lesbian couples founded the Daughters of Bilitis, which historians call the first lesbian organization in the United States. Lyon and Martin have been leaders of the lesbian community ever since. Their organization’s monthly magazine, the Ladder, was an influential publication in the LGBT rights movement and began publication in 1956. Both women were inducted into the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association Hall of Fame. A San Francisco medical organization founded in 1979 as a clinic for lesbians — Lyon Martin Health Services — was named for them.”



The state of California officially starts issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on the morning of June 17. But California has granted permission to San Francisco to start conducting same-sex ceremonies at 5:01 p.m. on June 16, after the state’s official workday ends. In deference to their pioneering role, Lyon and Martin’s wedding will be the only same-sex marriage held in San Francisco on the evening of June 16. The next morning, same-sex couples around the state will be free to marry, too.

Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, think it’s fitting for San Francisco to honor Lyon and Martin’s lifetimes of activism by letting them go first: “At a time when being openly gay cost you everything you cared about, they were. And they took risks and spoke out from the 1950s on in a way that I certainly do not believe I would have nor would most of us,” Kendell said. Inviting the couple to be the first to marry “is the absolute least we can do to acknowledge how critical their legacy is to the lives of all of us.”

(The photo at the right shows Lyon, on the left, and Martin arriving at a Human Rights Campaign gala in Los Angeles on March 6, 2004. Photo by Reuters/Lucy Nicholson.)

Lyon told the San Francisco Chronicle that it’s “heartwarming” that San Francisco wants her and Martin to be the first couple to marry, but ever the activist, she said that what really matters is that so many other couples will now have the chance to do so, too: “Hundreds of thousands of couples will be getting married this time, and that’s the important thing,” Lyon said. “It’s something that has been due for a long time, and thank God, it’s here.”

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 7
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    AP/Jae C. Hong

    Your summer in extreme weather

    California drought

    Since May, California has faced a historic drought, resulting in the loss of 63 trillion gallons of water. 95.4 percent of the state is now experiencing "severe" drought conditions, which is only a marginal improvement from 97.5 percent last week.

    A recent study published in the journal Science found that the Earth has actually risen about 0.16 inches in the past 18 months because of the extreme loss of groundwater. The drought is particularly devastating for California's enormous agriculture industry and will cost the state $2.2 billion this year, cutting over 17,000 jobs in the process.

       

    Meteorologists blame the drought on a large zone (almost 4 miles high and 2,000 miles long) of high pressure in the atmosphere off the West Coast which blocks Pacific winter storms from reaching land. High pressure zones come and go, but this one has been stationary since December 2012.

    Darin Epperly

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Great Plains tornadoes

    From June 16-18 this year, the Midwest was slammed by a series of four tornadoes, all ranking as category EF4--meaning the winds reached up to 200 miles per hour. An unlucky town called Pilger in Nebraska was hit especially hard, suffering through twin tornadoes, an extreme event that may only occur every few decades. The two that swept through the town killed two people, injured 16 and demolished as many as 50 homes.   

    "It was terribly wide," local resident Marianne Pesotta said to CNN affiliate KETV-TV. "I drove east [to escape]. I could see how bad it was. I had to get out of there."   

    But atmospheric scientist Jeff Weber cautions against connecting these events with climate change. "This is not a climate signal," he said in an interview with NBC News. "This is a meteorological signal."

    AP/Detroit News, David Coates

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Michigan flooding

    On Aug. 11, Detroit's wettest day in 89 years -- with rainfall at 4.57 inches -- resulted in the flooding of at least five major freeways, leading to three deaths, more than 1,000 cars being abandoned on the road and thousands of ruined basements. Gov. Rick Snyder declared it a disaster. It took officials two full days to clear the roads. Weeks later, FEMA is finally set to begin assessing damage.   

    Heavy rainfall events are becoming more and more common, and some scientists have attributed the trend to climate change, since the atmosphere can hold more moisture at higher temperatures. Mashable's Andrew Freedman wrote on the increasing incidence of this type of weather: "This means that storms, from localized thunderstorms to massive hurricanes, have more energy to work with, and are able to wring out greater amounts of rain or snow in heavy bursts. In general, more precipitation is now coming in shorter, heavier bursts compared to a few decades ago, and this is putting strain on urban infrastructure such as sewer systems that are unable to handle such sudden influxes of water."

    AP/The Fresno Bee, Eric Paul Zamora

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Yosemite wildfires

    An extreme wildfire burning near Yosemite National Park forced authorities to evacuate 13,000 nearby residents, while the Madera County sheriff declared a local emergency. The summer has been marked by several wildfires due to California's extreme drought, which causes vegetation to become perfect kindling.   

    Surprisingly, however, firefighters have done an admirable job containing the blazes. According to the L.A. Times, firefighters with the state's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection have fought over 4,000 fires so far in 2014 -- an increase of over 500 fires from the same time in 2013.

    Reuters/Eugene Tanner

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Hawaii hurricanes

    Hurricane Iselle was set to be the first hurricane to make landfall in Hawaii in 22 years. It was downgraded to a tropical storm and didn't end up being nearly as disastrous as it could have been, but it still managed to essentially shut down the entire state for a day, as businesses and residents hunkered down in preparation, with many boarding up their windows to guard against strong gusts. The storm resulted in downed trees, 21,000 people out of power and a number of damaged homes.

    Debbie Arita, a local from the Big Island described her experience: "We could hear the wind howling through the doors. The light poles in the parking lot were bobbing up and down with all the wind and rain."

    Reuters/NASA

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Florida red tide

    A major red tide bloom can reach more than 100 miles along the coast and around 30 miles offshore. Although you can't really see it in the above photo, the effects are devastating for wildlife. This summer, Florida was hit by an enormous, lingering red tide, also known as a harmful algae bloom (HAB), which occurs when algae grow out of control. HABs are toxic to fish, crabs, octopuses and other sea creatures, and this one resulted in the death of thousands of fish. When the HAB gets close enough to shore, it can also have an effect on air quality, making it harder for people to breathe.   

    The HAB is currently closest to land near Pinellas County in the Gulf of Mexico, where it is 5-10 miles offshore.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>