The home of the first lesbian couple to legally marry in San Francisco is soon to become a landmark. The city’s governing body unanimously voted Tuesday to give 651 Duncan St. that designation.
The late lesbian activists Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin owned the house. They bought the one-bedroom house in 1955. It soon became an unofficial office for the Daughters of Bilitis, a lesbian political and social organization that the couple founded that year.
“They provided lesbians who were really, really, really in the closet a place to hang out and dance, to have vacation peanuts so they didn’t have to go home and hang out with their homophobic relatives,” said Shayne Watson, an architectural historian of the self specializes in preserving LGBTQ heritage, the Associated Press said. Watson helped make the house a landmark.
Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP
“The daughters of Bilitis had no office space, so 651 was a zero point 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, said the Associated Press.
Lyon met Martin at a magazine in Seattle. The couple moved to San Francisco in 1953 and dated for more than five decades. The two married in 2004 in front of a small group of city officials and friends and became a public face of the movement that cracked down on California marriage laws.
At the time, it was illegal in the state for same-sex couples to marry. San Francisco mayor at the time, Gavin Newsom, who is now governor, nonetheless granted same-sex couples marriage permits.
Martin died in 2008 while Lion died in 2020. Their home was left to Martin’s daughter Kendra, who sold it last September.
The Friends of the Lyon-Martin House formed shortly after the sale in hopes of preventing the house from being demolished. Its current owner supports the house as a landmark.
The group hopes to come up with a proposal within six months that will require a plaque on the sidewalk. Some members hope that the home will be turned into a student residence, public research facility, and center for LGBTQ activism and history.