GroundSpark Exclusive: Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon’s Wedding Video

In memoriam
Del Martin
May 5, 1921 – August 27, 2008

On June 16, 2008 lesbian rights pioneers Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon were married in the first same-sex marriage ceremony since the California Supreme Court ruled in May that it was unconstitutional for the state to deny the right to marry to gay or lesbian couples.

Sadly, Del Martin, 87, passed away in August, just six weeks after her wedding. She and Phyllis had shared 55 years together and are widely acknowledged as two of the founders of the lesbian and
gay civil rights movement.

Today GroundSpark is honored to release this exclusive footage of Phyllis and Del’s historic wedding ceremony, which was officiated by Mayor Gavin Newsom in his office at San Francisco City Hall.

We do so in tribute to Del Martin, a true civil rights pioneer for her entire life, and in support of the efforts across the United States to guarantee the right to marry for all U.S. citizens, regardless of sexual orientation.

GroundSpark’s executive director, Debra Chasnoff, visited Del and Phyllis this summer and asked them if they wanted to share this wedding video with the world. They talked about the upcoming ballot initiative to amend the California constitution to eliminate this new right to marry for same-sex couples and about similar ballot measures in Arizona and Florida.

“If it will help,” Del Martin said in a whisper, “then let’s do it.”

In honor of Del and Phyllis, we encourage you to share this wedding video as widely as possible.

And here are three steps we invite you to take:

  1. Take action to defeat the California ballot measure that would eliminate this civil right and write discrimination into the constitution.

    NO on Prop 8
  2. Join GroundSpark’ community of supporters. Learn about our other campaigns and help us continue to use documentary film to ignite change.

    Make a Donation
  3. Sign up for GroundSpark’s newsletter and join us in sending support to Phyllis by posting your comments here. We will collect them all and make sure Phyllis gets them.

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Comments

  • Thank you so much for sharing this historic and wonderful moment with the world. It will never be forgotten.

    Comment by cyndy and harriet — September 26, 2008 @ 6:54 am

  • Thank you for teaching us the meaning of courage and leadership. Your lives have been an inspiration to those of us fighting for equality in Massachusetts. Your imprints on the world will live on forever.

    Comment by Arline Isaacson — September 26, 2008 @ 9:38 am

  • Thank you for always leading us – not by words but by your actions. Thank you for inspiring us, day after day, by speaking your truth. Thank you for showing us year after year that the personal is the political. And thank you for showing us,one more time, that love will always win. Together we can defeat Prop 8.

    Comment by Candy S Cox — September 26, 2008 @ 3:48 pm

  • Phyllis–I sat in my office watching this amazing footage last night after another 14 hour day on the NO on 8 campaign. The BIGness of the gift you and Del have given me, our community and our movement hit me as I welled up with tears of joy and sadness. Sadness that it took so long. Sadness that Del won’t be with us as we cross the finish line on Election Night. And, sadness for so many folks who never got the same opportunity to marry the person they loved–like my grandfather and his partner of 34 years. Joyful tears remembering my own wedding just two weeks ago. Joyful tears knowing that this campaign continues to open hearts and minds across CA and across this County. And joyful tears knowing that I’m not in this alone. You and Del are standing beside me and all of us as we recruit thousands of volunteers to talk to even more voters about stopping the elimination of marriage rights for same-sex couples. Thank you. –Sarah Reece, Statewide Field Director, NO on 8

    Comment by Sarah E. Reece — September 26, 2008 @ 3:59 pm

  • Dear Phyllis,

    Thank you so much for all you have done in furtherance of equality. This video of your wedding reminds us all of what we are fighting for, and for whom. You and Del are truly inspirations!

    Dale Kelly Bankhead
    Campaign Manager
    No On Prop 8

    Comment by Dale Kelly Bankhead — September 26, 2008 @ 4:06 pm

  • Dear Phyllis,
    I want to first write how sorry I am for your loss this summer. Your life must be very different now, without the person who was by your side for 55 years. My mother-in-law just lost her partner of 41 years. Though we live in Massachusetts, they did not get married; due to the lifelong strain of homophobia, they were not open about their relationship with many people in their lives. Thank you for sharing the video of your marriage to Del this summer. It affirms the relationship my mother-in-law and her partner deserved to be able to share and change and grow.

    Comment by Katy — September 26, 2008 @ 7:28 pm

  • Dear Phyllis, I am sorry for your loss, but rejoice with you for the weeks you had together as legal spouses…but also for the over 55 years you had together–a true example of being married. You are an inspiration and roll model. I had the honor of helping you find your room “out that door and across the green, into the next building and down the hall” at CLOUT in Minneapolis, perhaps. You looked so tired from your travels, it was my honor to help you—–YOU TWO HAVE HELPED SO MANY! ! ! Thank you. Elsie Gauley Vega (then from South Dakota, now in Iowa City, back in my home state. So many of us out here love you both deeply. Elsie

    Comment by Elsie Gauley Vega — September 27, 2008 @ 10:52 am

  • Wow – simply wow. Who would have thought that in my lifetime this would be possible. After watching it, the question really is, how could it have taken so long? The state only affirmed what God had already joined together a long time ago. As the states catch up, it is my hope and prayer that the Church will also.

    May God Bless & Keep you both always…

    Kay & Dee
    17 years together – on our way to 55 and more: For richer & for poorer, in sickness & in health, whether the state or the church decide to validate us or not…

    Comment by Kay Olry — September 29, 2008 @ 5:47 am

  • I remember sitting with Del in their home over 30 years ago discussing the political achievements of our community. This video reflects the eternality and unity of Spirit in the lives of all. The blessings of this day will forever reflect the power of Love. May we never settle for less than justice and truth in our lives.

    Comment by judie venturini — September 30, 2008 @ 1:58 pm

  • Thank you for sharing this beautiful and touching video with us. Thank you, too, for sharing your life and showing us that “being out there” is the road to full equality.

    You are always in our hearts,
    Shelly Bailes and Ellen Pontac

    Comment by Shelly Bailes/Ellen Pontac — September 30, 2008 @ 2:01 pm

  • Dear Phyllis, thank you for paving the way for women such as my partner and I. I will never forget Del and the fight she possessed as a gay women all these years just trying to marry the girl she loved!.

    Comment by Blue O'Brien — September 30, 2008 @ 2:58 pm

  • It was your courage and bravery that inspired us to be strong during our suit in NY State for recognition of our marriage — a lawsuit we won. We often think of the two of you and how strong your love must have been to see you through such turbulent times in the past. It’s the type of love and dedication that many people can only wish for. While Del is gone, she lives on in so many peoples’ hearts. Phyllis, our thoughts are still with you as we help fight homophobia and bigotry in California and throughout this country. Our best to you now and always.

    Comment by Pat and Lisa — September 30, 2008 @ 3:39 pm

  • “Registered partnership” – not marriage – has been legal in Sweden since 1995 and exists in several countries today. The clinical phrasing makes it easy to create and dissolve partnerships, like registering a business. The first partnerships were often created as expressions of political victory – a milestone for so-called “equal protection under the law”, but which does not come close to the meaning of honor and commitment in marriage. This was a hard earned victory in California shot down in 2004 and which still risks extinction on the ballot in November 2008. Massachusetts paved the way in the USA to make it happen. Hopefully one day it will become Federal law and we can sponsor our partners wherever they reside. There are seven “nations” in the world today that acknowledge marriage including Massachusetts and California. The right to marry should be a fundamental right and certainly is embodied in what is meant by “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence. Neither of the Presidential candidates sanction marriage. Nor did Hillary (or Bill) Clinton. Certainly Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon showed the world love and endurance for 55 years. And as more “nations” legalize marriage let these two women’s love be a shining beacon. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is one of the most courageous and forward thinking politicians we have today. The words he read for Del and Phyllis about marriage express that it is something that should be carefully considered. For sure this is what these two lesbian pioneers did and waited over two generations for the right to legally marry.

    Comment by Moira J Sullivan — October 1, 2008 @ 4:47 am

  • HOW WONDERFUL AND SAD AT THE SAME MOMENT. I CRY IN JOY, SADNESS , AND DISAPPOINTMENT . JOY FOR THE LOVE THEY SHARE. SADNESS THAT THEY HAD TO WAIT SO LONG FOR RECOGINITION AND NOW DEL PASSES AWAY TO LEAVE PHYLLIS WITH ONLY BEAUTIFUL MEMORIES. AND LAST IN DISAPPOINTMENT THAT WE ALL CAN’T SHARE THE SAME IN EVERY STATE AND NATION. IF WE PAY TAXES, VOTE, WORK, AND CONTRIBUTE TO SOCIETY, THEN WE DESERVE THE SAME RIGHTS AS ANY PERSON REGARDLESS OF SEX, RACE, CREED, OR RELIGION. GOD BLESS AMERICA FOR ONE SMALL STEP AND THE COURAGE FOR EACH OF US TO STANDUP FOR YOUR RIGHTS!
    THANK YOU PHYLLIS AND TO ALL WHO MADE THIS VIDEO POSSIBLE! HEARTWARMING AND THOUGHT PROVOKING!

    Comment by GRACE KERR — October 1, 2008 @ 8:47 am

  • Today at SF City Hall we witnessed an extraordinary tribute to the life of our friend Del Martin. We hold Phyllis in our hearts and pledge to keep the fight going. We’ve lost a fierce champion for equality, but heaven has gained a courageous angel.

    Comment by Kim and Terry — October 1, 2008 @ 4:48 pm

  • I read Phyllis and Del’s book in the early 70′s when I first came out. In fact I gave it to my mother to read also. We both benefitted enormously from their wisdom and insight. The book came at a time when there was very little understanding or tolerance, let alone acceptance, of homosexuality. I have been fans of theirs ever since. I just want to express my deep appreciation and respect for these two women. No one will ever know how much good they have done in their remarkable lives, but I’m sure it reaches far and wide and deep. Thank you Del. I’m deeply sorry for your loss.

    Comment by Cynthia Strain — October 3, 2008 @ 4:58 am

  • The irony of these words has been ringing in my ears since Del and Phyllis finally, legally, married: “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” Such a fine example of pure, spiritual, “faith-based” love is Phyllis and Del’s union–despite hateful man-made laws. Prop 8 tears their divine union asunder. I’m not religious but I’m certain that Jesus would vote “NO” on Prop 8. Who can doubt that their love triumphed surely because it was God’s will.

    Comment by Beth — October 6, 2008 @ 3:44 pm

  • I am so grateful Del and Phyllis were able to achieve full equality before Del’s passing. It is an inspiration to younger activists such as myself to be able to watch the accomplishments of a life of dedicated work to two movements that are so close to my own heart. We stand on the shoulders of the great women who have come before us – thank you, Del and Phyllis.
    Best of luck, California – lead the way toward full equality for the rest of us!
    Jill
    Portland, ME

    Comment by Jill — October 9, 2008 @ 5:14 am

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