Activist speaks about equal rights

Eli Calderon

In 1959, when Robin Tyler was 16 years old, she found herself falling in love with a female classmate. Confused by her feelings, she sought answers and found a flier called “The Ladder” written by Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon.?The flier explained what a lesbian was and, most importantly, assured Tyler that regardless of what people said, it was okay to be who she was. “Because of that, I came out healthy,” Tyler said.
Tyler, a comedian and human rights activist, shared some of her comedy and wisdom in Bakersfield College’s Fireside Room on campus last week.
Since Feb. 14, 2001, Tyler and her now wife, Diane Olson, have gone to the Los Angeles Courthouse to ask for a marriage license. “Every year they’d hand us a piece of paper and turn us down.”
The first year, although disappointed to be turned down, the couple and friends had cake to celebrate anyway. “We were almost arrested for eating cake on the sidewalk of L.A.”
In 2004, Tyler and Olson were in a domestic partnership when Tyler called to inquire her union organization, AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) whether Olson would be covered under Tyler’s retirement plan. That’s when Tyler learned Olson would not be covered or receive benefits because they didn’t have a marriage license.
“That’s just the way it is,” the operator told her and hung up.
Shocked and upset, she contacted her friend, high-profile lawyer Gloria Allred, and together they decided to sue the county of Los Angeles for discrimination and took the case all the way to the Supreme Court. Later, another gay couple joined in the lawsuit, Reverend Troy Perry and his husband Ray de Blieck.
Although the case got a lot of media attention in San Francisco, Tyler emphasized that it all began in Beverly Hills, where finally on May 15, 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the right to marry in California. Also, Tyler and Olson, who have been together for 15 years, were the first gay couple to officially wed in California.
The conservative side wasted no time, however, with Proposition 8, and Tyler asked her audience to get involved as well to vote no.
“This isn’t about sexual orientation. We just want the same thing as everyone else. What are people hanging onto? The notion basically is this: You’re not good enough. You’ll diminish our importance,” she said when she spoke of the conservatives trying to pass Prop. 8.
Tyler has been an activist most of her life and continues the effort to spread equality and civil rights.