#Pride50: Del Martin — Pioneering lesbian activist

By Ben Kesslen

One of the many gay-rights pioneers who made progress possible was Del Martin. With her long-term partner, Phyllis Lyon, Martin helped found one of the first lesbian organizations in the U.S.

Del MartinKay Tobin / NYPL

"Daughters of Bilitis were actually started by four lesbian couples," Lillian Faderman, author of "The Gay Revolution," told NBC News. "Most of them dropped out after a while. Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon continued, and they made the Daughters of Bilitis eventually a national organization."

Daughters of Bilitis also published one of the first lesbian publications: The Ladder.

"There was not only national but international circulation," Faderman said. "People in the little towns discovered the magazine and realized that they weren't alone. They weren't the only lesbians in the world."

Born in San Francisco, Martin was married to a man for a few years until she realized she was a lesbian and entered a decades long relationship with Lyon. When Daughters of Bilitis dissolved, Martin join the National Organization for Women (NOW) and was their first openly gay board member.

In 2008, after the California Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage legal, she and Lyon were the first gay couple married in San Francisco. Martin passed away a couple months after the marriage at the age of 87.

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