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    First Comes Love

    By Andrew Shaffer–

    When Phyllis Lyon (1924–2020) and Del Martin (1921–2008) met in 1950, they couldn’t have known how many barriers their love would drive them to break down.

    In 1955, they joined with three other lesbian couples to form the Daughters of Bilitis, the first lesbian civil and political rights organization in the United States. Lyon and Martin served as editors of the organization’s newsletter, The Ladder, the first national periodical for lesbians in the U.S., providing a vital point of connection for women around the country. Originally a social club, the organization quickly became politically engaged under their leadership.

    Lyon and Martin were heavily involved in advocacy work throughout their lives, pushing for greater equality and LGBTQ rights, including the right to marry. In recognition of their service to the movement, they became the first same-sex couple to legally marry in San Francisco—twice.

    Their first wedding took place in 2004, during a brief stint in which then-mayor Gavin Newsom’s administration began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples before the California Supreme Court stopped the practice and voided the roughly 4,000 licenses that had already been issued.

    In 2008, after the California Supreme Court finally legalized same-sex marriage, they became the first same-sex couple to legally wed again—just months before Martin would pass away.

    After Lyon’s passing in 2020, a movement quickly arose to preserve their memory, and the GLBT Historical Society worked with CyArk to create a digital copy of the home they shared for decades, including oral histories and a guided 3D tour. In 2021, their home became the first officially recognized lesbian landmark in the Western United States.

    Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin were pioneers, achieving numerous firsts throughout their lives that are well-documented in our archives. To browse their collection, or explore the 3D tour of their home, visit

    To learn more about our vast queer past, or make a contribution to support our work, visit

    Andrew Shaffer is the Director of Development and Communications for the GLBT Historical Society.

    Community Treasures from the GLBT Historical Society Archives
    Published on March 21, 2024