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Phyllis Lyon



Phyllis Ann Lyon was born November 10, 1924, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She grew up primarily in California.

A Love for Life:

Phyllis met Del Martin in 1950 in Seattle. In 1952, the two became lovers and been together ever since. In 1953, they moved to San Francisco.

Lesbian Activism:

With Del and several other women, Phyllis formed the first national lesbian organization in the United States, Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) in 1955. "Bilitis" comes from a poem about the lesbian lover of Sappho.


The Daughters of Bilitis published a magazine called The Ladder. Phyllis Lyon was it's editor. With her partner Del Martin, Phyllis also wrote the ground breaking Lesbian/Woman in 1979, a lesbian history and call for lesbian equal rights.

Active in Civil Rights Causes:

San Francisco Mayor George Moscone appointed her to the San Francisco Human Rights Commission (HRC) in 1976, and she served as Chair in 1982-1983. She also was chair of the HRC's Lesbian/Gay Advisory Committee.


Phyllis Lyon earned a Doctor of Education in Human Sexuality from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. She was a professor there from 1976-1987.

Film of her Life:

Lesbian film-maker and photographer Joan E. Biren (JEB) made a film, No Secret Anymore: The Times of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, which premeired in 2003 at gay and lesbian film festivals around the country.

Marriage in SF:

On February 12, 2004 Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin became the first same-sex couple to legally marry in the United States in a ceremony in San Francisco.

Phyllis Lyon Quotes:

"We've come a long way from our goal in the 1950s, part of which was to get laws against sexual activity between consenting adults of the same sex wiped off the books. The other part was to be considered part of society. We wanted our full rights and responsibilities," Lyons told The Noe Valley Voice in February 2003.

On her long-lasting relationship with Del Martin: "If we had a secret, we would have written a book and made a million dollars. We love each other, we have similar interests. Our lives were very similar even before we met." Also quoted in the Noe Valley Voice.

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