Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. FFRF.org

In memoriam: Diane Olson, marriage equality activist, dies at 65

Vol. 36 No. 03 April 2019
Diane Olson                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Diane Olson, who, along with her wife, was the first lesbian plaintiff to file a successful lawsuit that brought marriage equality to California, died of brain cancer on Jan. 16.

Diane was also the granddaughter of California Gov. Culbert Levy Olson, who ran on the platform of “separation of church and state.” Her sister is Debra Deanne Olson, who spoke at FFRF’s convention in San Francisco in November.

Diane and her wife, Robin Tyler, were the first to be allowed to marry in Los Angeles County, because they were the first to file suit in California, challenging the law which denied same sex couples the right to marry.

Robin and Diane decided to take legal action, because Robin was retiring and her union would not extend medical benefits to the couple after retirement as they were not “married.” Attorney Gloria Allred, a friend of the couple, agreed to take their case and represent them pro bono.

Diane was raised in Beverly Hills, and for four years Robin and Diane went to the Beverly Hills courthouse with other activists to demand a marriage license prior to Allred’s filing the suit on Feb. 23, 2004. On June 16, 2008, media from all over the world covered their wedding in front of the Beverly Hills Courthouse, surrounded by their families, friends and attorneys.

Olson joined Tyler’s International Tour Company for lesbians and for 20 years they travelled around the world.

In 2012, Diane developed lung cancer that metastasized into brain cancer in 2016. After treatment, they continued to participate in LGBT politics, and travel the world until the couple’s last yearly visit to Cancun in October 2018.