State Watch

San Francisco lawmakers vote to make home of city’s first legally married same-sex partners a landmark

San Francisco lawmakers have unanimously voted to make the home of the first-same sex couple to legally marry in the city a historical landmark. 

All 11 members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a measure granting “landmark designation” to the hilltop cottage formerly owned by the late lesbian activists Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin. 

According to The Associated Press, the couple moved into the one-bedroom home in 1955, the same year they co-founded the Daughters of Bilitis, one of the first civil and political rights organizations for lesbians in the U.S.

In 2004, then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom (D), who in 2019 took office as California governor, challenged the state’s marriage laws at the time by issuing licenses to same-sex couples. 

Lyon and Martin, who had already been together for 50 years at the time, were wed in secret at the clerk’s office and became the public face of the movement to change the state’s marriage laws. 

Their home was left to Martin’s daughter, Kendra, following Martin’s 2008 passing and Lyon’s death in 2020. 

After the home’s sale in September 2020, an organization called the Friends of Lyon-Martin House was formed with the support of the GLBT Historical Society to advocate against the house’s demolition. 

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the home’s new owner, Meredith Jones McKeown, supports the historical landmark designation and preservation of the small one-bedroom home.

Architectural historian Shayne Watson, who participated in the push to get the house landmarked, said the couple “provided a place for lesbians who were really, really, really in the closet to hang out and dance, have holiday potlucks so they wouldn’t have to go home and hang out with their homophobic relatives.” 

Watson, who specializes in LGBTQ heritage conservation, added, “No one wants to see a tour bus in front of the house, but Phyllis and Del affected so many lives, including my own, and I feel strongly that the house where they did it should stay in the community,” the AP reported. 

According to the San Francisco Planning Department, the hillside home will join nearly 290 other designated historical buildings throughout the city, which under the title are protected from alterations that could cause “substantial adverse change in the significance of a historical resource.”

Tags California Gavin Newsom historical designation LGBTQ rights Same-sex marriage Same-sex marriage in California San Francisco San Francisco Chronicle The Associated Press
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