Minn. gay couple in '71 marriage case still unitedMINNEAPOLIS (AP) — When Jack Baker proposed to Michael McConnell that they join their lives together as a couple, in March 1967, McConnell accepted with a condition that was utterly radical for its time: that someday they would legally marry.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — When Jack Baker proposed to Michael McConnell that they join their lives together as a couple, in March 1967, McConnell accepted with a condition that was utterly radical for its time: that someday they would legally marry.
Just a few years later, the U.S. Supreme Court slammed the door on the men's Minnesota lawsuit to be the first same-sex couple to legally marry in the U.S. It took another 40 years for the nation's highest court to revisit gay marriage rights, and Baker and McConnell — still together, still living in Minneapolis — are alive to see it.
On Friday, the justices decided to take a potentially historic look at gay marriage by agreeing to hear two cases that challenge official discrimination against gay Americans either by forbidding them from marrying or denying those who can marry legally the right to obtain federal benefits that are available to heterosexual married couples.
“The outcome was never in doubt because the conclusion was intuitively obvious to a first-year law student,” Baker wrote in an email to The Associated Press. The couple, who have kept a low profile in the years since they made national headlines with their marriage pursuit, declined an interview request but responded to a few questions via email.
While Baker saw the court's action as an obvious step, marriage between two men was nearly unthinkable to most Americans decades earlier when the couple walked into the Hennepin County courthouse in Minneapolis on May 18, 1970, and tried to get a license.
New York City's Stonewall riots, seen now as the symbolic start to the modern gay rights movement, were less than a year in the past. Sodomy laws made gay sex illegal in nearly every state; most gay men and lesbians were concerned with much more basic rights like keeping their jobs and homes or simply living openly.
“People at the time said these guys were crazy,” said Phil Duran, legal counsel to OutFront Minnesota, the state's principal gay rights lobby. “I think today, most people would say, ‘Holy mackerel, you saw this when no one else did.’ History will vindicate them. It already has.”