Prop 8: Woman in state’s first same-sex marriage ‘glad for everybody’

Phyllis Lyon smiled Wednesday morning as she made her way down the stairs inside San Francisco City Hall.

The 88-year-old widow, half of the first same-sex couple to wed in California, joined state and city leaders to celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision on the state’s contentious Proposition 8.

“I’m glad for everybody,” she later told reporters.

The rotunda of City Hall was full more than an hour before the decision was announced Wednesday morning. When news first started to trickle in that the court had ruled Proposition 8 proponents had no legal standing to defend the measure, there was perplexed silence as people started to process the information.


When the television flashed the proposition had been sent back to California, where judges and top officials have said same-sex marriage was a matter of equal rights, the crowd erupted into cheers.

Various officials then made their way into the rotunda -- California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, former California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown -- along with Lyon, and addressed the jovial crowd.

“It’s been a long road,” Lee said. “It feels good to have love triumph over ignorance, equality triumph over discrimination.”

“It is a great place to be in this hall, where so many marriages have happened,” he continued. “The very first one, Phyllis Lyon, and there are many more weddings to be celebrated.”


San Francisco was the first city in California to allow same-sex weddings after then-mayor Newsom directed officials to issue marriage licenses to gay couples in 2004. The California Supreme Court halted the weddings four weeks late, and later nullified the marriages.

When that decision was overturned in 2008, gay couples again lined up for marriage licenses. Later that year, California voters approved Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in the state and sparked the legal battle that ultimately went to the Supreme Court.

“San Francisco is a city that has long prided itself on being on the cutting edge,” Newsom told the crowd at City Hall. “We are not a city of dreamers, we are a city of doers. We don’t just tolerate diversity, we celebrate diversity.”

“It’s folks like you, exercising moral authority, who change the world,” he said. “It’s people like Phyllis and Del -- that’s why we’re here.”

Lyon’s wife, Del Martin, died shortly after the couple was legally wed in 2008.

Kate Kendell, the executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, stood at the lectern and smiled before cursing Proposition 8.

“I did a quick scan of the crowd to see if there were any children,” she said. “I will put a dollar in the bad word jar.”

Kendell then lauded the efforts made by gay rights supporters in the fight against the marriage ban.


“When Prop. 8 passed, you stepped up and galvanized in a way that made today possible,” she said.

Others cautioned the decision also could mean another round in court if proponents continue to defend Proposition 8 when it returns to the lower court. But San Francisco City Atty. Dennis Herrera said they were ready.

“We already have motions drafted. We’re ready to go back to court,” he said. “We will not rest until we have marriage equality throughout the country.”

As the crowd spilled out of City Hall, which was festooned in rainbow flags for the upcoming Pride weekend, drivers honked their car horns in support. Andrew Somera and his husband, Phil Kotzen, 31, stood on the building’s steps, two signs in their hands.

Both clutched one with big, red letters, declaring, “Equality now.” Somera also held a smaller sign: “Love prevails.”


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