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How Jack Baker and Michael McConnell became husbands in 1971



Time now for StoryCorps. Jack Baker and Michael McConnell are two names you probably never heard of. In the early 1970s, they wanted to get married, but same-sex marriage was not yet legal in Minnesota. Baker and McConnell sued the state and appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices declined to hear their case, but they managed to get married anyway after Baker and McConnell found a legal loophole.

JACK BAKER: Our marriage was the first such union to be recorded in public files of any civil government, and it became the first legal gay marriage.

MARTINEZ: Jack and Michael came to StoryCorps to remember their perseverance and how their relationship began.

MICHAEL MCCONNELL: I was at a Halloween barn party in Norman, Okla. And my close and very dear friend said, there's someone here I want you to meet; you two were destined for each other. I kind of rolled my eyes. And he said, no, really.

BAKER: At the time, I was looking for the four Ts - tall, thin and 23. I was 24 and thought perhaps time had passed me by. But there was the four Ts standing right there in front of me, and so I was quite excited. We talked and chatted. And he was one of the people - few people that had a brain in his head. So I wanted to see more of him after that.

MCCONNELL: My mother, she had told me that I have the same rights as anybody else. And so when Jack asked me to be his lover, I said, well, if you're willing to find a way for us to get married, I will commit to you.

BAKER: And so that's when I said, well, I'm going to have to find a way to go to law school. And that's where it all started.

MCCONNELL: One of the things that Jack discovered in law school is that there are many ways to accomplish what you really want to do in the legal system. We thought, let's change Jack's name. Let's make it gender neutral. So we changed Jack's name to Pat Lynn McConnell. And the license was issued. We went to a friend who was registered with the state to perform marriages and asked him to perform our marriage, which he did. That was September 3, 1971. Our rings have a particular, very powerful meaning for me. When our rings are put together, it says Jack loves Mike. And then you reverse the sides, and it says, Mike loves Jack.

BAKER: We got quite a bit of criticism, and very few people were actually supporting us. But I figured, well, history would speak for itself.


MARTINEZ: That's Jack Baker and his husband, Michael McConnell, for StoryCorps. In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled same-sex couples do, in fact, have a constitutional right to marry. Their interview is archived at the Library of Congress. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jud Esty-Kendall
Halle Hewitt