decorative bar


corner Last update of this page: August 9th 2017 corner
Jack Baker
(1942 - living) U.S.A.

Jack Baker

Equality activist, lawyer

Michael McConnell
(1942 - living) U.S.A..

Michael McConnell

Equality activist, librarian


Both gay activists, they created a campus organization at the University of Minnesota to be run by and for gay students. They called it Fight Repression of Erotic Expression (FREE), which the University recognized in 1969, shortly before the Stonewall riots, and elected first-year law student Jack Baker as president. It was the second such organization in the United States, following the Student Homophile League recognized by Columbia University in 1967.

Jack Baker (a stage name used by Richard John Baker) was the first gay activist elected student body president at a major university (Minnesota Free University, 1971; re-elected 1972); by winning this election he became the first open gay man to win any public office in the U.S. In 1970, Jack Baker and Michael McConnell became the first gay couple to seek legal marriage. They were featured in Life magazine.


In 1970, Minnesota's statutes did not explicitly forbid marriage between two adult men. Baker, a law student, and McConnell argued that "what is not forbidden is permitted" when they applied for a marriage license in Minneapolis on May 18. The clerk of the Hennepin County District Court, Gerald Nelson, said he had "no intention of issuing a marriage license". He then denied the request on the sole ground that the two were of the same sex.

The first legal challenge was launched on May 18, 1970 by Jack and Mike in Minnesota. The plaintiffs contended in Baker v. Nelson that an absence of a specific prohibition on same-sex marriage signified a legislative intent to recognize them.

They also argued that the state marriage statute, interpreted to provide only for opposite-sex marriages, is unconstitutional based on the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments, denying them liberty and property without due process and equal protection of the law.

The couple was turned down and in 1972 the Supreme Court refused to review the case; McConnell was fired from his job as librarian with the University of Minnesota when his homosexuality and activism became public; he brought an unsuccessful suit claiming discrimination. Baker v. Nelson would be the linchpin of the legal fight against marriage equality for decades to come.

Gay marriage saw "little or no enthusiasm" from the American Civil Liberties Union. Gay historians ignored the midwest because they "personally had political objections to gay marriage activism." According to Thomas Kraemer, "gay marriage activism was rejected by early gay activists [in New York City] who were mostly interested in sexual freedom and gay liberation." Perhaps that explains why the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union was alone in its defense of gay marriage.

Husbands Jack Baker (left) and Mike McConnell (right) speaking about their book at the public library in Rochester, Minnesota

Before the Minnesota court halted marriage licenses to same-sex couples, which were not forbidden by existing statutes, Baker and McConnell re-applied, this time in Blue Earth County, succeeded and became the"first same-sex couple in history to be legally married". The 1972 decision "does not reach back to Baker and McConnell" since the two obtained their license and were married "a full six weeks" previously. The National Archives came to the same conclusion.

In early August 1971 McConnell legally adopted Baker in a Hennepin County court. When he approved the request, Judge Lindsay Arthur said, "regardless of popular conception, adoption is not limited to children". The decree changed Baker's legal name to Pat Lyn McConnell, though he continued to use the name Jack Baker.

In mid-August 1971, Baker and McConnell took up residence with a friend in Blue Earth County and applied to the District Court in Mankato for a license to marry, which was granted once the waiting period expired. Rev. Roger Lynn, a Methodist minister, solemnized their marriage on September 3. The Hennepin County Attorney argued the license was invalid because it failed to meet the law's requirement that a license be issued in the bride's county of residence. He convened a grand jury, which "studied the legality of the marriage but found the question not worth pursuing." They remained committed to each other, and continued to live in a modest home in South Minneapolis. Former University students Jack Baker and Mike McConnell were the first gay couple to seek legal marriage. Since 2004 they are filing a joint tax return

In 2003, Baker and McConnell amended their individual tax returns for the year 2000, filing jointly as a couple. They offered proof of a valid marriage license issued in Blue Earth County. The IRS challenged the validity of the marriage license and argued that, even if the license were valid, the Defense of Marriage Act prohibited the IRS from recognizing it. McConnell brought suit and the U.S. District Court for Minnesota upheld the IRS ruling in McConnell v. United States on January 3, 2005, and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's ruling on July 17, 2006, saying that McConnell could not relitigate the question decided in Baker v. Nelson.

Husbands Mike McConnell (left) and Jack Baker in 2016

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed in 2015, "to decide the issue Jack Baker and Mike McConnell tried to bring before it in 1972: Do same-sex couples have a constitutional right to get married?" That case was dismissed "for want of a substantial federal question." Minnesota's Attorney General argued, in March 2015, as a friend of the court: "The procreation rationale [used by the Minnesota Supreme Court] does not support the prohibition of same-sex marriage"

McConnell is currently a Coordinating Librarian for Library Services in the Hennepin County Library system, which recently absorbed the Minneapolis Library system. Baker is largely retired from his corporate law practice. He is active in the Lyndale Neighborhood Association, and writes occasional articles for local newspapers. The couple still lives in Minneapolis.


Source : http://lgbt-history-archive.tumblr.com/ & Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Click on the letter B to go back to the list of names

corner © Matt & Andrej Koymasky, 1997 - 2017 corner