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02 • JANUARY 18, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

LOCAL

Marriage activist Diane Olson dies at 65 Olson fought for marriage equality with spouse Robin Tyler By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com She was the quiet one, the blond political spouse who stood by the side of her activist/comic wife during LGBT civil rights demonstrations and media events promoting the right for same sex couples to marry. They were the first lesbian plaintiffs to file what became the successful lawsuit that helped bring marriage equality to California. To borrow from the song, Diane Olson was the wind beneath Robin Tyler’s wings. Olson passed away from brain cancer on Wednesday night, Jan. 16, at the couple’s home in North Hills surrounded by family and friends. Olson was 65. Their lives were not all politics, however. Olson joined Tyler’s early 5-Star International Tour Company for lesbians and for 20 years they travelled around the world, stepping among seals in the Galapagos, posing with King Penguins in

Robin Tyler and Diane Olson in Oct. 2011 at a Gloria Allred-sponsored party in West Hollywood to watch Chaz Bono on “Dancing with the Stars” Photo by Karen Ocamb

Antarctica, swimming with a baby elephant in Thailand, and getting close to wildlife everywhere. Olson’s favorite destination was Botswana, Africa. Olson came to the fore during the battle for marriage equality, reminding the media that she was the granddaughter of Gov. Culbert Levy Olson, the first elected Democratic Governor of California, who ran on a platform promoting ‘separation of Church and State.’ He would have been

proud to officiate at their wedding. Olson and Tyler worked within the Freedom to Marry movement but they became frustrated after Tyler retired and her union, AFTRA, would not extend medical benefits to Olson since they were not legally married. Their friend attorney Gloria Allred agreed to take the case, pro bono. For four years, the couple went to the Beverly Hills Courthouse on Valentine’s Day with other activists to demand a marriage

license, which they were denied. Finally, on Feb. 12, 2004, Allred filled a lawsuit on behalf of Tyler and Olson and Rev. Troy Perry and Phillip Ray de Blieck (already legally married in Canada) for the right to marry in California. That lawsuit was later combined with lawsuits from San Francisco, leading to a decision in May 2008 declaring the constitutional right to marry for same sex couples. On June 16, 2008, media from around the world carried what Tyler would later call their “Big Fat Jewish Lesbian Wedding” in front of the Beverly Hills Courthouse. Some opposed the Jewish ceremony, officiated by Rabbi Denise Eger, because it might offend the religious right. But Olson thought it was a sharp reminder of the separation between church and state. In 2012, Olson developed lung cancer that metastasized into brain cancer in 2016. After treatment, they continued to participate in LGBT politics—especially the grassroots battle against Proposition 8 in 2008. They also traveled until the couple’s last yearly visit to Cancun in Oct. 2018. At the time of her death, Olson and Tyler had been married over 25 years, legally married for 10 ½. Funeral plans are pending.

Out Cathedral City Mayor Greg Pettis dies at 63 An active member of the Democratic Party By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com Greg Pettis, the affable, hard-working Democrat who assumed the mantle as Cathedral City’s openly gay mayor last month, died Tuesday afternoon Jan. 16 from complications related to gastric bypass surgery, his family told the Desert Sun. Last August, the 5-foot-10, 282-pound Pettis told political blogger Cindy Uken that he intended to have weight-loss surgery at Riverside Community Hospital after becoming ill in January 2018 and frankly assessing medical issues that included high

blood pressure, high cholesterol, three ulcers and a regime of 11 medications.   “I’m excited for the change,” Pettis told The Uken Report, adding that what he longed for was to “get healthier” and satiate his “desire to live longer.” Pettis suffered complications last October. He was taken to Eisenhower Health on Jan. 9 following a City Council meeting. He died about 4 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15, Uken reported. “I am extremely saddened by the sudden death of Greg Pettis,” out Palm Springs City Councilmember Geoff Kors told the Los Angeles Blade.  “Greg recently became the first openly LGBT mayor of Cathedral City.  He was a compassionate and talented elected official, working to improve the lives of everyone in his community, state and nation.  He always stood up for the most vulnerable, leading efforts on asylum and

immigration, economic development, social justice, and creating programs to reduce poverty and expand education opportunity. Greg was a kind person with a wonderful sense of humor.  I will miss my colleague and friend and know his legacy will live on in all the people he helped.” Born on Dec. 15, 1955 and raised in Duarte in the San Gabriel Valley, Pettis moved to Cathedral City in 1979. Pettis was elected to the Cathedral City Council in 1994 after nearly 15 years in the hospitality industry. “Mayor Pettis will be remembered for his progressive legislative ideas, supporting civil rights and social justice for all people, and at the same time, working hard to bring economic development to the city he loved to call home since 1979,” a city news release said.  Pettis was a ubiquitous fixture in Democratic Party circles, receiving

a Democratic National Committee appointment through Democratic Municipal Officials to be one of 75 California superdelegates to the Democratic National Convention in 2016 where he supported former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton. Pettis caused some political consternation by going to work for Republican State Sen. Jeff Stone from 2014-2015. The two knew each other when Stone was on the Temecula City Council and when they both served on the Southern California Association of Governments in 2013, where Pettis served as president. “Greg was like a mini Governor of California because the organization is so massive,” Stone told the Uken Report, noting that Pettis helped him evolve on LGBT issues. “He was the poster child for public service,” Stone said. “It is a loss for the entire county. He was so good at helping people.”

Profile for Los Angeles Blade

Losangelesblade.com, Volume 3, Issue 3, January 18, 2019  

Losangelesblade.com, Volume 3, Issue 3, January 18, 2019

Losangelesblade.com, Volume 3, Issue 3, January 18, 2019  

Losangelesblade.com, Volume 3, Issue 3, January 18, 2019

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