San Francisco’s first same-sex spouses’ home is now a landmark
SAN FRANCISCO – The hilltop cottage owned by a lesbian couple who were the first same-sex partners to legally marry in San Francisco has become a city landmark.
The supervisory board voted unanimously on Tuesday to make 651 Duncan Street the home of the late lesbian activists Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin. The Noe Valley neighborhood house is set to become the first lesbian monument in the American West, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
“They provided a place for the lesbians who were really, really, really in the closet to hang out and dance, have potlucks for the holidays so they didn’t have to go home and hang out with them.” their homophobic parents, ”said Shayne Watson, an architect-historian who specializes in conserving LGBTQ heritage and has been active in the movement for the home to be a landmark.
Martin and Lyon bought the simple one-bedroom house on the hillside terrace as a couple in 1955, the same year they co-founded the Daughters of Bilitis, a political and social organization for lesbians.
The group started out as a social support organization but quickly turned into activism and politics.
“The Daughters of Bilitis did not have office space, so 651 was really ground zero for the lesbian rights movement at the time. It was a place where people could be safe and reveal their sexuality, ”said Terry Beswick, executive director of the GLBT Historical Society.
Lyon was a journalist who met her lifelong sweetheart, Martin, while working at a magazine in Seattle. The couple moved to San Francisco in 1953. In addition to political organization, they published a national lesbian monthly and a book called Lesbian / Woman in 1972.
Gov. Gavin Newsom was a newly elected mayor of San Francisco in 2004 when he decided to challenge California’s marriage laws by licensing same-sex couples. His advisers and gay rights advocates had in mind the perfect couple to be the public face of the movement.
Lyon and Martin, who had been together for over 50 years, were secretly taken to the clerk’s office. They exchanged vows in front of a small group of city employees and friends.
Martin died in 2008 and Lyon in 2020, and the house was left to Martin’s daughter, Kendra. The property was sold in September 2020.
After the sale, a free organization called the Maison des Amis de Lyon-Martin was formed to guard against demolition, with the GLBT Historical Society as a financial sponsor.
New owner Meredith Jones McKeown is supporting land marking and chalet protection, The Chronicle reported.
Within six months, the group will present a proposal, with a sidewalk plaque as “a bare minimum,” Beswick said. Beswick and Watson both want to preserve the interior as a student residence, public research center, and center of LGBTQ activism and history.
“No one wants to see a tour bus in front of the house,” Watson said, “but Phyllis and Del have affected so many lives, including mine, and I have no doubts that the house where they made it should stay in. the community. “