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Del Martin & Phyllis Lyon

Lesbian Activist Couple


Phyllis Lyon & Del Martin

Phyllis Lyon & Del Martin

© Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Who are Del Martin & Phyllis Lyon?

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon are early American lesbian activists.

Del Martin (1921-2008) was married for four years and had a daughter before coming out. She studied journalism and human sexuality.

Phyllis Lyon (1924- ). She was a writer and reporter for several different newspapers in her career.

How they Met

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon met in 1950 in Seattle, where they both worked for the same publication. They began a relationship in 1952 and in 1953, they moved to San Francisco.

Lesbian Activist Couple

Phyllis and Del became active in San Francisco politics and in the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, which was formed in the 1960s to stop police harassment of gay bars.

Both Del and Phyllis were active in the National Organization for Women (NOW). Del Martin was the first openly lesbian woman to be elected to a post within NOW in 1967.

The two also spoke out against sexism in the gay male community and helped educate both lesbians and gay men about male dominance, heterosexism and sexism.

Daughters of Bilitis

Del and Phyllis were part of a group of women who formed Daughters of Bilitis, the first lesbian organization in the United States in 1955.


  • Together Phyllis Lyon and and Del Martin wrote Lesbian/Woman (1972) and Lesbian Love and Liberation (1973), books about lesbian life in America.
  • In 1979, Del Martin wrote Battered Wives, a book about domestic violence.
  • Both contributed to The Ladder the magazine of Daughters of Bilitis

First Married Couple in San Francisco

Del and Phyllis were the first couple married in San Francisco on February 12, 2004.

They were married again on June 16, 2008.

Del Martin died on August 27, 2008. Phyllis Lyon issued this statement: "Ever since I met Del 55 years ago, I could never imagine a day would come when she wouldn't be by my side. I am so lucky to have known her, loved her, and been her partner in all things. I also never imagined there would be a day that we would actually be able to get married. I am devastated, but I take some solace in knowing we were able to enjoy the ultimate rite of love and commitment before she passed."

Sources: glbtq, Lesbian News, The Lesbian Almanac, Out in All Directions

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