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They blazed a trail for gay marriage. Now they're in California's Hall of Fame

Hannah Wiley, The Sacramento Bee on

Published in Dating Advice

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom inducted the late lesbian rights activists and married couple Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin into the California Hall of Fame during a virtual Tuesday ceremony honoring six Golden State icons.

The couple shared a significant moment in their lives with Newsom when he was mayor of San Francisco.

In 2004, Newsom issued an illegal marriage license to Lyon and Martin as part of a larger attempt to challenge the state's restriction on same-sex unions.

The California Supreme Court initially nullified their marriage that year, but struck down the ban in 2008.

The couple then married again in San Francisco, though it wouldn't be until 2013 that same-sex marriage officially became legal in California. Newsom officiated the ceremony.

The two had spent more than five decades together both as partners and activists before exchanging vows, and were known in San Francisco and nationally as trailblazing LGBTQ leaders. They co-founded Daughters of Bilitis, a social, political and lesbian rights organization that also published the first nationally distributed periodical The Ladder.

Lyon and Martin advocated for press freedom and served as members of several high-profile political organizations, including the National Organization for Women. They also worked with religious leaders on accepting LGBTQ members into their churches.

 

California Hall of Fame inductees are chosen for their contributions to industries like the arts, business, labor, entertainment, food and wine, literature, music, public service science and sports, according to the museum and governor's office.

The governor and first partner select the new members annually, and usually celebrate their achievements during a ceremony at the California Museum. This year the museum is honoring the new members via online exhibitions and videos.

Lyon and Martin were among the first class of honorees that the California Hall of Fame honored posthumously. Martin died in 2008 and Lyon in 2020.

The couple was inducted with sculpture artist Ruth Asawa, singer-songwriter and guitarist Jerry Garcia, labor organizer Larry Itliong and rocker Ritchie Valens. More than 130 Californians have already been inducted.

"Jennifer and I are pleased to induct this group of extraordinary Californians into the Hall of Fame," Newsom said in a prepared statement. "There is no doubt their lives and legacies have helped make California synonymous around the world with innovation, imagination and progress."

"These luminaries represent the best of California," Siebel Newsom said. "Each one has left their own indelible mark on history and reminds us of the creativity, ingenuity and courage that lives inside all of us."

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