Friday, August 29, 2008


Del Martin, circa 2008
Today I received an e-mail containing the personal statement of Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center of Lesbian Rights, about her mourning the loss of Del Martin. I wanted to share it with all of you.

It is always hard for me to write when the topic is personal. This is such a moment. Today, August 27, 2008 a personal hero, transformative icon, deeply cherished role-model and my friend, Del Martin, died at the age of 87. Even though Del had been in the hospital for almost two weeks and those of us who visited her could all see her steep decline and knew this moment was inevitable, I still can’t quite grasp a life and career without Del as a larger than life influence. I am heartbroken for Phyllis Lyon, who for 55 years made a vibrant intimate and public life with Del.

Phyllis and Del certainly had their own individual interests and personalities, but their life and love as a couple and their commitment to living that life openly, with honesty and integrity, is what millions of folks around the world will remember. The picture of Del and Phyllis marrying 4 years ago and then again on June 16, in the wake of our landmark victory in the California State Supreme Court, is an image that melted hearts and opened minds. They were the face for our fight to win the right to marry the person we love—and after 55 years of commitment to one another, who could possibly deny them that cherished right?

Del’s entire life was marked by moments of singular courage, intelligence and insight. She was always ready to discuss—and argue—politics, international affairs, women’s issues, social justice causes and the history of the LGBT movement. My fondest memories were laughing and gossiping as we sat in their modest home with the million-dollar views of San Francisco. Over these past months, we were able to do that often and over that time it was clear that Del’s health was slipping. But her mind and wit never left. In one of my last hospital visits Del was in pain, with doctors trying all sorts of combinations of medication to ease her discomfort. At one point she grimaced. “Oh, Del I am so sorry,” I said. “Not as sorry as I am,” she replied with a wry smile.

In so many ways, I have lived a life filled with extraordinary gifts. My work, my family, my friends and colleagues are all a rich and varied quilt of enriching relationships and profound connections. I have been mentored by women and men of enormous talent and generosity. In all my life I have never known a person more remarkable than Del Martin. I will miss her every day.

My pledge is to honor her unsurpassed legacy by working every day to keep alive her vision for full equality and justice for all of us. Now, more than ever, I am committed to waking up on November 5 with Prop 8 defeated with a brighter future for every LGBT person assured. Now I am doing it for Del and her beloved widow, Phyllis. I hope you will, too.

We now have a fierce and mighty angel on our side. Please hold Phyllis in your hearts and take just a moment to be grateful that our world and community knew Del Martin.

With a heavy heart,
Kate Kendell (NCLR) National Center For Lesbian Rights

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