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Minnesota gay couple who married in 1971 granted federal recognition

Nick Duffy February 28, 2019
Michael McConnell and Jack Baker

Michael McConnell and Jack Baker (Jonathunder/GNU Free license)

A Minnesota gay couple who tied the knot in the US in 1971 have been granted recognition by the federal government, 48 years later.

Michael McConnell and Jack Baker quietly tied the knot in Blue Earth County, Minnesota in 1971, after legally receiving a marriage license from a clerk who did not realise the application was from two men.

The state had no law to explicitly ban same-sex couples from getting married at the time, but instead of officially attempting to revoke or nullify the marriage, officials instead refused to recognise the union had happened.

Same-sex marriage from 1971 Minnesota ‘in all respects valid’

The marriage became the centre of a decades-long legal battle in Minnesota, which has now finally come to a close more than four decades later.

In September 2018, a district court in Minnesota ruled: “The marriage is declared to be in all respects valid.”

LGBTQ Nation reports that the ruling has been followed with action from the federal government, which agreed to recognise the Minnesota marriage.

According to the outlet, the Social Security Administration sent a letter to the couple on February 16 confirming their 1971 marriage was legal.

Michael McConnell and Jack Baker tied the knot in Blue Earth County, Minnesota in 1971
Michael McConnell and Jack Baker tied the knot in Blue Earth County, Minnesota in 1971 (Minnesota Historical Society)

McConnell said: “This is really a Valentine.

“It proves what I’ve always said. Jack and I are in our 70s, and we’ve been married almost 50 years.

“Our marriage is all about the power of love… sometimes it takes a while, but in the end, love always wins.”

Baker added: “The ruling was a long time coming, but I knew the courts would eventually rule in our favour.

“Over the years, many legal scholars have reviewed our case and concluded that the law was on our side.”

McConnell previously wrote a book about their pioneering marriage, “The Wedding Heard Round the World.”

PinkNews contacted the Social Security Administration for comment.

Other same-sex couples tried to get married in the 1970s

Baker and McConnell’s 1971 marriage was not an isolated incident, with many brave couples attempting to get married decades before it was permitted for them to do so.

In January, the US National Park Service honoured the Boulder County Courthouse in Colorado, where several same-sex marriage licenses were issued 40 years before the Supreme Court recognised marriage equality.

A plaque was unveiled at the Boulder County Courthouse on January 4 to mark its unique role in LGBT+ history.

The Colorado courthouse was the first place in the United States to knowingly issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple in 1975, after a local gay couple asked for the right to marry.

Then-Boulder County clerk Clela Rorex opted to grant the request, after the local district attorney informed her that Colorado law at the time defined marriage as between “any two persons” without apparent restriction as to gender.

Rorex went on to issue a total of six marriage licenses to same-sex couples, before being ordered to stop by Colorado’s attorney general J. D. MacFarlane, who declared them all invalid.

More: Gay, gay couple, LGBT, Minnesota, same sex marriage, US, wedding

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