The month of June in Minnesota is commonly associated with the reappearance of the sun, a whole lot of fun, and more than a few no-wake zones. June is also National LGBT Pride Month, a thirty day-long celebration of LGBT history that was first established to honor the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City. This historic event was a tipping point in the Gay Liberation Movement and led to the establishment of Gay Pride Day. In 2000, President Bill Clinton declared June to be “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month”. This celebration of the struggle for LGBT rights and its successes was expanded to include transgender and bisexual individuals in President Obama’s 2016 Presidential Proclamation, that proclaimed June to be LGBT Pride Month. In honor of LGBT Pride month we’re writing a series of blog posts about LGBT Minnesotans and their awesome activism, starting with the first same-sex couple to get married in Minnesota.
Decades before the Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage in 2015, Jack Baker and Michael McConnell wanted to get married. Baker and McConnell knew they had their work cut out for them as same-sex relationships were viewed as deeply taboo by many communities in the 1960’s and 70’s. An attempt to apply for a marriage license in Minneapolis in 1970 was denied by Hennepin County and, eventually, by the Supreme Court itself. Instead of working within government regulations set forth for traditional marriages, they would have to outfox the opposition. Thanks to Baker’s education as a lawyer and substantial careful thought by the couple, Baker and McConnell were able to to obtain a marriage license in a series of three steps: McConnell legally adopted Baker in order for them to share legal protections, Baker changed his name to the gender-neutral title of “Pat Lyn McConnell” in order to put the marriage license clerk at ease, and they submitted their marriage application in Blue Earth County, where the adoption and name change were not known. The marriage license went through, and the two were finally wed by a pastor in Minneapolis on September 3rd, 1971.
What does Baker have to say about their expert maneuvering? “‘We outfoxed them,’ he said. ‘That’s what lawyers do: make the law work for them’“.
Baker and McConnell have been married for over forty years, and still live in Minneapolis. They were present when the state legalized same-sex marriage in 2013, and though notoriously private, they have had a huge impact as LGBT activists in the state, their influence ranging from the University of Minnesota to the state legislature itself. When asked if they would remarry now that same-sex marriage is officially legalized in Minnesota, the pair said they would not: “To reapply now becomes an admission that what we did was not legal, and [we] will never admit that“.
Well said, gentlemen. Well said.