US lesbian activist Del Martin dies at 87

August 28th, 2008 - 2:11 pm ICT by IANS  

San Francisco, Aug 28 (DPA) US Lesbian rights pioneer Del Martin, who married her partner of 55 years in one of California’s first same-sex weddings, died Wednesday in San Francisco of natural causes. She was 87.”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,” said Martin’s partner Phyllis Lyon, 83, as quoted by the San Francisco Chronicle.

The couple were “remarried” June 16 at San Francisco City Hall by Mayor Gavin Newsom after the California Supreme Court declared marriage for same-sex couples a fundamental right.

In 2004, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom allowed marriage licences to be issued to gay and lesbian couples in defiance of state law and Martin and Lyon were the first of some 4,000 same-sex couples to wed. However, those marriages were later nullified by the state’s high court.

Martin and Lyon were plaintiffs in the lawsuit that got the state ban on same-sex marriage lifted. They were married minutes after the ruling was in effect.

Martin’s political activism began in 1955 when she co-founded a ground-breaking lesbian rights organisation, Daughters of Bilitis, named after a book of lesbian love poetry.

In the 1960s Martin’s activism extended into the feminist movement, when she became the first open lesbian to serve on the board of directors of the National Organisation of Women.

She helped spearhead a successful campaign to get the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its roster of mental illnesses.

California is one of only a few US states to allow same-sex marriage. However, state voters will decide whether to abolish the right in November.

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