The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to designate the site of the first same-sex married couple- the late Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin- as a landmark. Read on for the full story!
Home of First Same-Sex Married Couple Becomes a Landmark in San Francisco
Last Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors gave the 651 Duncan St. home of the late lesbians Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin landmark status in honor for their decades of LGBT activism and advocacy. The home, at 651 Duncan St, was purchased in 1955 by the two women and has been a gathering place for the community ever since.
Martin and Lyon bought the simple one-bedroom house in 1955, a year after they founded the Daughters of Bilitis. The political and social organization was a place for lesbians to mobilize around their rights. Shayne Watson, a historian with a specialty in LGBTQ heritage conservation, told AP News
“They provided a place for lesbians who were really, really, really in the closet to hang out and dance, have holiday potlucks so they wouldn’t have to go home and hang out with their homophobic relatives,”
Lyon and Martin’s journey to become the first same-sex married couple
Lyon was working as a journalist in Seattle when she met , Martin. The two moved to San Francisco in 1953, where they became incredible activists for the LGBTQ community.
Decades later in 2004, Gov. Gavin Newsom became mayor of San Francisco. His challenging of the state’s marriage laws not only made it possible for the lifelong loves to finally legally marry, but set off a chain reaction that would eventually lead to the legalization of same-sex marriage nationwide.
Lyon and Martin had been together for more than half a century before that magnificent day when they were whisked away to the county clerk’s office (in secret!) to officially tie the knot.
Sadly, Martin passed away just four years later in 2008. Lyon followed her in 2020, leaving their home to Martin’s daughter, who sold it shortly after in September of last year.
Preservation society steps in to prevent demolition
After the sale, LGBTQ advocates formed the Friends of Lyon-Martin House organization. Their main goal: prevent the house’s demolition.
Meredith Jones McKeown, the home’s current owner, supports protecting the cottage and turning it into a landmark, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
As of this week, their efforts were a success. The home will officially become the very first lesbian landmark in the West, according to the Chronicle.
As Watson explained to the Chronicle,
“No one wants to see a tour bus in front of the house, but Phyllis and Del affected so many lives, including my own, and I feel strongly that the house where they did it should stay in the community.”
Terry Beswick, executive director of the GLBT Historical Society, added that within the next 6 months, the group will submit a proposal for- at the minimum- a plaque on the sidewalk so that visitors can learn more about the home’s landmark status.
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