Dorothy "Del" Martin, who died on August 27 at the age of 87, was most publicly known for steering a movement to legalize equal marriage rights for same-sex couples. That fight was realized June 16 when she and her life partner of 55 years, Phyllis Lyon, were the first gay couple to be legally married in San Francisco, just one month after a ruling of the California Supreme Court went into effect and officially upheld the right of all gay couples to marry.
The site of countless such marriages that have taken place since June, City Hall today provided the venue for Martin's memorial celebration, which began with a procession of drummers and family accompanying Lyon to her chair, and proceeded with a lavish program of musical performances, political tributes, poetry readings and family memories.
"She didn't bake cookies, but she made a mean potato salad," Martin and Lyon's daughter Kendra Mon said. "Mom was not an extraordinary person, but she was able to achieve extraordinary things."
Other tributes to Martin were made by the Rev. Cecil Williams of Glide Memorial Church, San Francisco Poet Laureate Jan Mirikitani and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who presided over the City Hall wedding ceremony of Martin and Lyon in June.
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, scheduled to attend the memorial but detained in Washington D.C., delivered a statement read by philanthropist and former Ambassador to Luxemburg James Hormel.
Aileen Hernandez, a founding member of the National Organization for Women, also addressed the audience, speaking to Martin and Lyon's enduring political legacy when she said, "Del and Phyllis, you are not only a leader of the cause of lesbianism, not only of the cause of gay marriage, you are actually a leader of the cause of everything that helps us move into a more human, more loving society."