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Members of the LGBTQ community are mourning the passing of Phyllis Lyon, an iconic leader in the equality movement who broke barriers as a member of the first same-sex couple to be married in the state of California.
Lyon, 95, died April 9 in San Francisco from natural causes, officials with the National Center for Lesbian Rights said.
She made history on Feb. 12, 2004, when she and her longtime partner Del Martin became the first same-sex couple to be married in the state after then San Francisco mayor and now Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the city clerk to begin providing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. That union was overturned by the state Supreme Court six months later.
The couple married again on June 16, 2008, once the court reversed its earlier decision and recognition of same-sex marriage became state law. Newsom officiated at the ceremony, which came after the couple had been together for 55 years. Del Martin passed away barely two months later, on Aug. 27, 2008, at the age of 87.
“I’m so sad at the passing of Phyllis Lyon, a trailblazer, a fearless activist and a good friend,” U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein said in a statement Tursday. “She truly left an indelible mark on San Francisco.”
San Francisco Mayor London Breed called Lyon “a true champion of LGBTQ rights and San Francisco was incredibly lucky to have her leadership and activism.”
In a news release, the National Center for Lesbian Rights remembered Lyon as “one of the nation’s first and most visible lesbian rights activists.”
“Phyllis Lyon was a giant,” said Imani Rupert-Gordon, NCLR’s executive director. “She was an icon, a trailblazer, a pioneer, a role model, and a friend to the many of us who looked up to her.
“Her activism changed what we thought was possible, and her strength inspired us. Her vision helped forge our path and made organizations like NCLR possible. And although the path is lonelier without her, we know the way because of her.”