San Francisco Mayor remembers civil rights leader Del Martin

28 Aug 2008

'Gay marriage mayor' Newsom remembers Del Martin at DNCC caucus

by Nick Langewis

At the DNC LGBT Caucus Meeting at the Colorado Convention Center this afternoon, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom remembered Del Martin, one of California's inaugural lesbian brides, who passed away this morning.

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, co-founders of the Daughters of Bilitis, were "that human face," as Newsom called them, on the lawsuits that arose from his 2004 move to order San Francisco's City Hall to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, earning him the nickname "the gay marriage mayor." The first marriage license, issued on February 12, 2004, was voided by the California Supreme Court on August 12, 2004. Martin and Lyon, together 55 years at the time of Martin's passing, were officially married again on June 16, 2008, the day the Supreme Court's May decision went into effect, by Mayor Newsom.

Newsom said he was inspired by President Bush's 2004 State of the Union speech, in which Bush spoke in favor of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, to meet with community leaders and take action. "[We asked Phyllis and Del] if they would be that first couple -- to be that test case -- to be that human face, so that we could file a suit, and ultimately get to the California Supreme Court and right some wrongs in our state."

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon helped "humanize" the LGBT community, Newsom told PageOneQ. "To do what they've done [to advance] human rights is second to none." Martin "demanded equal rights, and justice, and she got it just a few weeks before she passed away."

"You can't separate an institution by making it a lower institution," Newsom added, speaking on Proposition 8, which would outlaw same-sex marriages constitutionally. No one proposed civil unions for interracial couples in 1967, despite 70% of the public being against interracial marriage, he noted. "How dare they have the audacity to say that today," he said of marriage rights opponents. "Really, what's at stake is [Martin's] legacy and her life."

"I think it's understandable, frankly, in this context and this political environment that a lot of folks are still not there yet," Newsom said when asked if Senator Obama would "come around" and support full marriage equality. "I understand the politics of this arguably better than any human being a consequence of being defined as a politician by this issue."

"Civil unions is nice...but it's not full equality. And for those that are married and believe in civil unions, ask them why they haven't [traded] their marriage for a civil union...I've never seen one politician who's married ever say 'I'm unhappy with my marriage certificate' because they asked their fiancee to 'marry them.' They asked that question. Not the question 'Will you civil union me?'"