San Francisco’s First Same-Sex Married Couple’s Home is Now A Landmark

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The hilltop cottage belonging to a lesbian couple who were the first same sex couple to marry legally in San Francisco has become one of the cities landmarks.

On Tuesday the 651 Duncan St. home of the late lesbian activists Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin was voted landmark status. This is the first lesbian home to become a landmark in the U.S.

The home was provided for lesbians who were in the closet to hang out, dance and have holiday potlucks so they wouldn’t have to go home and be with homophobic relatives.

Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin bought the one-bedroom house as a couple in 1955, the same year they started the “Daughters of Bilitis” which is a political and social organisation for lesbians.

There was no office space for this organisation, so 651 Duncan St. was ground zero for the lesbian rights movement at the time, the home was a safe place people could get together and reveal their sexuality.

Phyllis Lyon was a journalist who met her lifelong love, Del Martin, while working at a magazine in Seattle. In 1953 they moved to San Francisco and published a national monthly for lesbians and a book called “Lesbian/Woman” in 1972.

In 2004 the California Marriage Law issued licences to same sex couples. Phyllis and Del, who had been together for more than 50 years at this point, were secretly swept into the clerk’s office where they exchanged vows in front of a tiny group of city staffers and friends.

Del Martin died in 2008 and Phyllis Lyon in 2020. 651 Duncan St. was left the Del’s daughter which was then sold in September 2020. After the sale, an organisation called “The Friends of Lyon-Martin House” was formed to guard against demolition with the GLBT Historical Society as a financial sponsor.

The new owner of 651 Duncan St. supports landmarking and protecting the property.