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Iconic LGBTQ activist Phyllis Lyon passes away at 95

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Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin

Iconic LGBTQ activist Phyllis Lyon passes away at 95

Legendary LGBTQ activist Phyllis Lyon, who co-founded the first social and political organization for lesbians in the US, Daughters of Bilitis, has died at the age of 95 from natural causes.

Lyon, who died at her San Francisco home, was half of the dynamic duo with Del Martin. Lyon had recently celebrated her 95th birthday last November.

Groups mourn passing of Phyllis Lyon

LGBTQ rights groups like the Los Angeles LGBT Center and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) mourned the death of Lyon.

The Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Chief of Staff Darrel Cummings said: “We will miss Phyllis to be sure, but we will always feel her presence in the continuing march toward full equality and justice for the LGBTQ community.”

“While the loss of Phyllis makes this a profoundly sad day, I hope we can focus on the groundbreaking impact she and Del had on our community from the founding of the Daughters of Bilitis to their hard-fought battles to transform the National Organization for Women (NOW) into a lesbian-inclusive organization and their activism on behalf of LGBTQ seniors,” Cummings said.

“Phyllis Lyon was a giant. She was an icon, a trailblazer, a pioneer, a role model, and a friend to the many of us who looked up to her,” said NCLR Executive Director Imani Rupert-Gordon.

Meanwhile, Kate Kendell, a friend and former NCLR executive director, said that Lyon lived life with “joy and wonder.”

“Before cellphones they always had their phone number listed in the phone book in case any young or terrified LGBTQ person needed help or support. And they fielded dozens of calls over the years,” Kendell said.

In a tweet, Kendell said, “She (Phyllis) and Del are dancing again. I will miss her so much.”

The trailblazer that is Phyllis Lyon

Lyon and Martin were among the first same-sex couples to marry in California when it became legal to do so in 2008, with the two exchanging rings before then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom in a private ceremony.

Newsom, who is presently the California Governor, referenced Lyon’s death during this daily briefing of the coronavirus pandemic yesterday and said she was one of his heroes.

Martin later died at the age of 87, weeks after their second wedding in 2008 after the state Supreme Court voided the unions before overturning the state’s ban on gay marriage.

The US Supreme Court later legalized gay marriage in 2015.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is from San Francisco, said: “All those who were blessed to know Phyllis and Del remember the extraordinary love that they had for each other.”

“As we mourn the loss of our dear Phyllis, we find peace in knowing that she and Del are together again,” Pelosi said.

US Senator Kamala Harris said in a tweet the couple’s contributions will “never be forgotten.” She also said: “If the word icon ever meant anything it certainly applies to Phyllis Lyon.”

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