Best. Lesbian. Week. Ever. (June 20, 2008)

File this item under the category of "Finally!" Lesbian activists and partners of 55 years Del Martin, 87, and Phyllis Lyon, 83, were the first lesbian couple to be married in San Francisco on Monday, June 16 at 5:01 p.m., just one month after the California Supreme Court ruled that gays and lesbians have the right to get married.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom did the honors, which was only fitting since he was the one who defied state law and ordered marriage licenses be issued to gay and lesbian couples back in February 2004. The state later voided those licenses, including the one issued at that time to Martin and Lyon. At the time, Lyon said, "Del is 83 years old and I am 79. After being together for more than 50 years, it is a terrible blow to have the rights and protections of marriage taken away from us. At our age, we do not have the luxury of time."

Martin (left) and Lyon cut their wedding cake on June 16

Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Luckily, they didn’t have to wait too much longer. Their most recent ceremony was held this Monday. After the couple exchanged vows and rings in Newsom’s office at City Hall, Newsom told them: "You’ve always been destined to enjoy this blessed and extraordinary day. … It is my extraordinary honor to pronounce you spouses for life."

After the ceremony, Newsom said: "No couple exemplifies what marriage is all about more than these two extraordinary people. … The institution of marriage has been strengthened."

Left to right: Martin, Newsom and Lyon at San Francisco City Hall

Photo credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez-Pool/Getty Images

Martin and Lyon formed the first national lesbian organization, Daughters of Bilitis, in 1955, then one year later published the first nationally distributed lesbian magazine, The Ladder. In her column Back in the Day, Malinda Lo wrote about The Ladder: "Until it ceased publication in 1972, The Ladder was the preeminent source of information for lesbians across the U.S., teaching them how to dress to avoid police arrest, encouraging them to accept themselves, and providing a positive message to counter the overwhelmingly negative coverage in the mainstream heterosexual media."

In the first issue of the magazine (October 1956), Lyon wrote, "It is to be hoped that our venture will encourage women to take an ever-increasing part in the steadily-growing fight for understanding of the homophile minority." Lyon and Martin edited the publication until 1963.

I like to think of The Ladder as the grandmother of, and women always aspire to take after our grandmothers, right? Malinda wrote, "Early issues of The Ladder published personal essays, fiction, editorials, reports of research on homosexuality, lists of books and publications about homosexuality, and letters to the editor. It avoided publishing anything that was sexual in content, advocated a relatively conservative tone — advising women to conform to heterosexual fashion norms, for example — and soon began to publish news about lesbians and the homophile movement."

In keeping with our lineage, has published book reviews (read books by Ariel Schrag!)
and personal essays (Angela Robinson says we don’t need The Man to make lesbian movies!), and given fashion advice (Tank tops? Yes! Ties worn over T-shirts? No!).

(We do write about things that are "sexual in content," but Sarah never lets me write about Lindsay Lohan. If I had known the ban was a way of honoring my journalistic grandmothers and not just a despotic display of power by the Editor in Chief, I wouldn’t have defied her!)

Here’s a clip from The Daily Show in which host and friend-of-the-gays Jon Stewart celebrates Lyon and Martin and gay marriage in general while skewering all the homophobes who have a problem with it:

The Daily Show: "The Gay After "

Maybe Jon Stewart would see The Ladder as the grandmother of his rebellious Daily Show, too. If that’s the case, I hope they give him the lint-covered butterscotch candies from the bottom of their collective purse.

by Karman Kregloe

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