Jack Baker (activist)
Jack Baker (born Richard John Baker, 1942) was a gay activist in the U.S. state of Minnesota from 1969 to 1980. He and Michael McConnell (born James Michael McConnell, 1942) repeatedly sought to obtain a marriage license and at one point succeeded in doing so and were married. Their attempt to assert their rights as a married couple ended when the Minnesota Supreme Court decided the case of Baker v. Nelson in 1972 and the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed their appeal "for want of a substantial federal question."
- 1 Student activism
- 2 Same-sex marriage activism
- 3 Employment discrimination
- 4 Career in law and politics
- 5 Later years
- 6 Further reading
- 7 References
Fight Repression of Erotic Expression
Gay activists from Minnesota Free University 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 Columbia Queer Alliance recognized by Columbia University in 1967.
"FREE is the first student gay organization to gain recognition in the upper mid-west," the organization's news release proclaimed. "Its leaders believe it to be the first such organization on a Big Ten campus."
Interest expanded. Members soon demanded marriage equality. One member was eager to educate his parents. For credit, he selected a program requested by Dave Moore, then a popular announcer on WCCO-TV. The student was proud of what ultimately aired on Sunday, 30 September 1973.
Moving openly and aggressively, members of FREE slowly transformed Minneapolis into a "mecca for gays". Five major companies were questioned. That led to a wider survey. Three doing business in the Twin Cities area responded quickly, insisting that they do not discriminate against homosexuals in their hiring policies. Honeywell responded differently: "We would not employ a known homosexual."
FREE pressed for equality and crafted a new University policy. The Administrative Committee approved a final draft 22 May 1972. Complaints could now be filed with the Campus Committee on Placement Services for discrimination by employers recruiting on campus. When challenged, Honeywell admitted that its objection to known homosexuals "still holds." Facing expulsion from University facilities, Honeywell "quietly reversed its hiring policy". No longer would it refuse to employ people because they are gay.
Gay Pride, begun by FREE, swept the world. Everywhere, men and women became eager to abolish discrimination against themselves or their friends. Congress objected. It felt the need to punish colleges that do not grant access to military recruiters.
Student Body President
Early in 1971, Baker campaigned to become president of the Minnesota Students Association at the University of Minnesota's Twin Cities campus. His theme, Student Control over Student Concerns, urged students "to search out a new self-respect."
"We need a student on the Board of Regents," he insisted. Why wait for a change in the law? "The Regents already have the power to appoint students to the committees of the Board or Regents." The student newspaper endorsed his position.
A total of 6,024 ballots were cast in the election, topping the previous record of 5,049 cast in the 1958 election. Baker captured 2,766 votes; two competitors and write-in candidates split the remainder. He credited victory to a new "sophistication" among students. "Sexuality ought not and did not play any party in the campaign".
As student body president, Baker continued to question why students lacked input to decisions made by the Board of Regents. Some regents relented, forcing the Board to act. Soon thereafter, students were invited to participate. Several were appointed, one non-voting member to each committee. He started a student-run bookstore. Concurrently, he proposed that the University purchase a local FM radio station to be operated by students as a public communications tool for the University. Finally, he created a corporation owned by MSA to build needed housing for students.
Having promised to complete projects already started, Baker won re-election easily in 1972. With "3,035 votes out of a record turnout of 7,441", it was "the first time in the 121-year history of the University that a student body president has been re-elected." A focus on campus issues attracted 41% of the vote in a 3-way race.
Same-sex marriage activism
Lawsuit to obtain a licence
In 1970, Minnesota laws did not explicitly forbid granting a marriage license to a same-sex couple. On May 18, 1970, Baker and McConnell applied for a marriage license in Minneapolis. 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.
Baker and McConnell filed suit in district court to force Nelson to issue a license. Legislator Allan Spear, a University of Minnesota professor, called them "the lunatic fringe." A trial court dismissed the couple's claims and ordered the clerk not to issue it.
They appealed the district court's decision to the Minnesota Supreme Court. In a brief opinion issued on October 15, 1971, the state's highest court affirmed the trial court's dismissal. Its opinion said that: "The institution of marriage as a union of man and woman, uniquely involving the procreation or rearing of children within a family, is as old as the book of Genesis". Chief Justice Robert J. Sheran, and all Associated Justices, concurred.
The Minnesota Civil Liberties Union filed an appeal in the U.S. Supreme Court, which dismissed the case unanimously on October 10, 1972, issuing a one-sentence decision: "The appeal is dismissed for want of a substantial federal question." The case received extensive media attention, including appearances on the Phil Donahue Show, and Kennedy & Co. (WLS-TV, Chicago IL). On the David Susskind Show (New York, NY), Baker was blunt. "We're gonna win eventually, not this time but maybe the next time around." Baby Boomers from around the world responded.
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.
A civil right
Jack Baker addressed members of the Ramsey County Bar Association in 1971. Same-sex marriages are "not only authorized by the U.S. Constitution," he said, but are also mandatory. "I am convinced that same-sex marriages will be legalized in the United States."
In 1972, Baker addressed a forum of more than 2,000 at the University of Winnipeg. "We maintain," he explained, "that it’s a matter of equity and fair play that if a state is going to give childless heterosexual couples rights and benefits under the law, they can’t complain when childless same-sex couples ask for the same rights." His arguments persuaded Richard North to begin a "fight to be married" with Chris Vogel. Persistence led to equal marriage in Canada 30 years later.
Same-sex marriage is "the civil rights issue of our times,” said NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous during a news conference at the organization’s national headquarters. "The outcome was never in doubt," Jack Baker told the Associated Press in 2012 "because the conclusion was intuitively obvious to a first-year law student."
Adoption, name change, marriage
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 Lynn 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. It was the first lawful same-sex marriage in the United States. 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."
The Family Law Reporter disagreed with the County Attorney. Because the marriage was consistent with Minnesota law, it argued, the "federal constitution prohibition against ex post facto laws, U.S. Constitution Article l, Section 9(3), forbids the imposition of punishment for past conduct lawful at the time it was engaged", and hence the Minnesota high court's decision does not reach back to Baker and McConnell since the two were married "a full six weeks" before that decision.
They filed a joint tax return for 1973, which the Internal Revenue Service rejected. The next year, McConnell claimed Jack Baker as a dependent and took a deduction on his tax returns as head of household from 1974 through 2004. He lost the deduction in 2005, after the federal law was amended to restrict the deduction to an adopted child under the age of 19.
The University Librarian offered Michael McConnell the position of Head of the Cataloging Division at the library on the St. Paul campus. The Board of Regents rescinded the offer after he applied for a marriage license. More than 80% of the student body disapproved of the Regents' action.
According to Regent Daniel Gainey, "homosexuality is about the worst thing there is."
McConnell sued to gain the job that was offered. He prevailed in federal District Court. The University appealed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which concluded that the University did not restrict free speech. Instead, the court ruled, it was McConnell who wanted "to pursue an activist role in implementing his controversial ideas concerning the social status to be accorded homosexuals and thereby to foist tacit approval of the socially repugnant concept upon his employer."
McConnell was later hired by the Hennepin County Library, a system of 41 facilities. He rose through the ranks during a distinguished career of 37 years. When he retired as a Coordinating Librarian at the end of 2010, the Board of Commissioners awarded him a commendation 
Pain for 42 years brought a statement of regret from President Eric Kaler. He called McConnell’s treatment reprehensible, regrets that it occurred and says the university’s actions at that time were not consistent with the practices enforced today at the university. McConnell responded: "Thank you, President Kaler, for offering to remove the cloud that shamed the University of Minnesota. Your offer is accepted."
Career in law and politics
In June 1972, Baker led the DFL Gay Rights Caucus at the State Convention of the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party. We advocate "legislation defining marriage as a civil contract between any two adults", the delegates added to their party platform. This was the first time a major United States political party encouraged support for marriage equality.
In December 1972, Baker graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School. When he applied to take the bar examination, questions were raised about whether the procurement of his 1971 marriage license amounted to fraud. At a hearing, Baker was defended by the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union. The State Board of Law Examiners reviewed the facts and concluded that he was entitled to take the bar exam. He was admitted to the bar.
Baker ran more than once as a candidate for Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. Each time, he challenged the incumbent who also served as head of the Minnesota News Council (MNC). Baker cited the Code of Judicial Conduct—"A judge shall not act as an arbitrator or mediator or otherwise perform judicial functions in a private capacity unless expressly authorized by law."—and said it prohibited a sitting judge from serving on the MNC. In 2002, Baker opposed the re-election of Paul H. Anderson. In the Plebiscite mailed to more than 14,900 attorneys in Minnesota, he questioned the special relationship between the Minnesota Supreme Court and MNC. Baker won 30% of the votes.
The practice of a sitting judge mediating a private dispute regarding the conduct of the press ended shortly thereafter and the MNC ceased to exist in 2011.
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.
Baker and McConnell were still living as a married couple as late as December 2012.
- Ken Bronson (2004). "A Quest for Full Equality". Quatrefoil Library.
- Claire Bowes (4 July 2013). "Jack Baker and Michael McConnell: Gay Americans who married in 1971". BBC News. Retrieved 4 July 2013.
- Greenhouse, Linda (March 20, 2013). "Wedding Bells". New York Times. Retrieved March 21, 2013.
- Staff, "free you", Bulletin No. 5, Minnesota Free University (May 1969). Final entry under New Courses: "The Homosexual Revolution" by K.A. Phelps (18 May 1969)
- Wayne R. Dynes, "Homosexuality and Government, Politics and Prisons" (1992), 248; available online, accessed February 7, 2012
- Neal R. Peirce, "The Great Plains States of America: People, Politics, and Power in the Nine Great Plains States", George J. McLeod (1973), 145; available online, accessed February 7, 2014
- Schumach, Murray (May 3, 1967). "Columbia Charters Homosexual Group". New York Times. Retrieved July 23, 2013.
- Anon., "News from", Fight Repression of Erotic Expression (1 November 1969)
- Posted by Brandon Wolf, "Human Relations", University Media Resources. The full production of the FREE member's course work, including words to his parents, is available online
- Anon., "News from", Fight Repression of Erotic Expression (17 May 1970); available online from Quatrefoil Library: "Any relationship that promotes honesty, self-respect, mutual growth and understanding for two people and which harms no other person should be accepted by the law."
- Lily Hansen, "F.R.E.E. At Last", GAY (11 May 1970), 13
- Ken Bronson, A Quest for Full Equality (2004), 5; available online from Quatrefoil Library
- Anon., "Three big companies say they hire Gays", The Advocate (30 September 1970), p. ?
- Gerry E. Morse, Vice President, Honeywell Inc. (29 June 1970); letter to James W. Chesebro, FREE – a response to an inquiry about employment of homosexuals
- Malcolm Moos, President, University of Minnesota (11 February 1971); letter to Jack Baker et al. "I appreciate your willingness to serve on the Campus Committee on Placement Services".
- Gary Urban, "Complaint charges Honeywell discrimination", Minnesota Daily (12 March 1973), 8; available online
- Lars Bjornson, "A quiet win: Honeywell yields", The Advocate (10 April 1974), 13
- The term was invented by Thom Higgins, Co-coordinator, Homosexual Speakers Bureau (formed 16 May 1970), FREE. He later formed The Gay Pride Committee, a division of the Target City Coalition. For historical perspective, see Jason Smith, "Gay Pride Block Party Case", Friends of the Bill of Rights Foundation (January 2012)
- Jack Baker, "Baker on Gay Pride, Minnesota Daily (25 June 1971), p. ?. Remarks excerpted from a speech at a rally in Chicago: "We celebrate [a riot at the Stonewall Inn] as Gay Pride Day."
- Anon., "G.S.U. Newsletter", Gay Students Union, U.C. Berkeley (20 January 1971), 2. "GSU could attempt to do the same here."
- Anon., "Chicago Gay Pride, Newsletter", Chicago Gay Alliance (June 1972), Vol. II, no. 3
- Anon., "Gay Pride Week and Christopher Street Liberation Day '73", Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee; New York, NY (June 1973), flyer
- Anon., "Gay Pride Celebration Parade", Gay Pride Crusader; San Francisco, CA (27 June 1973), poster
- Anon., "National Gay Rights Conference", Victoria University; Wellington, New Zealand (April 1981), poster
- Kay Tobin and Randy Wicker, "The Gay Crusaders", Paperback Library (New York: 1972), 136
- Jack Baker, "Policy Statement", a platform for election to be student body president (March 1971)
- Anon., "Baker for MSA president", Minnesota Daily (5 April 1971), 4; available online. "He has spoken truth to power because he knows the power of truth."
- Steve Brandt, "Baker wins in record vote," Minnesota Daily (8 April 1971), 1; available online
- Gary Dawson, "Homosexual Credits U Election Victory to a New Sophistication", St. Paul Dispatch (8 April 1971), 35
- After Baker graduated from law school, the Governor signed into law a bill reserving one seat on the Board of Regents for an enrolled student.
- Brian Anderson, "Students give Baker a vote of confidence", Minneapolis Tribune (10 April 1972), 1B
- Gary Dawson, "U Student Head Not Upset By Attacks in Campaign", St. Paul Dispatch (7 April 1972), 6
- Vic Stoner, "Baker, Schwartz win MSA election", Minnesota Daily (7 April 1972), 1
- Associated Press, "Law senior elected U. student president", Austin Daily Herald (7 April 1972), p. ?
- Anon., "Minnesota Statutes Annotated", West Publishing Co. (June 1969), c. 517.01 – Marriage a civil contract. "Marriage, so far as its validity in law is concerned, is a civil contract, to which the consent of the parties, capable in law of contracting, is essential."
- Associated Press, "Marriage Is Out", Kansas City Star (24 May 1970), 30A
- Appellant's Jurisdictional Statement, Baker v. Nelson, Supreme Court docket no. 71-1027, at 3-4 (statement of the case); Court Won't Let Men Wed, N.Y. Times, Jan. 10, 1971 at 65.
- David von Drehle, "Gay Marriage Already Won", TIME (8 April 2013), 22; available online
- Anon., "Gay Marriage Plea Is Denied", St. Paul Pioneer Press (November 19,1970), 27
- Justice C. Donald Peterson, "Opinion", Baker v. Nelson (15 Oct 1971), 191 N.W.2d 185 at 186
- Jack Star, "The Homosexual Couple," LOOK (26 January 1971), 69-71
- Michael Durham, "Homosexuals in revolt", LIFE (31 December 1971), 68
- Condon, Patrick (December 10, 2012). "Minn. gay couple in '71 marriage case still joined". Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved March 20, 2013.
- Available online from Sasha Aslanian, "Gay rights pioneers Jack Baker and Michael McConnell predicted marriage victory in '70s", Minnesota Public Radio (16 May 2013)
- Claire Bowes, "Jack Baker and Michael McConnell: Gay Americans who married in 1971", BBC News Magazine (3 July 2013); available online. "Pastor Roger Lynn holds up Baker and McConnell's marriage certificate"
- Letters (1970-1982), from The McConnell Files, [to be] available for public viewing at the Tretter Collection.
- See, letter from Norman Dorsen (General Counsel for ACLU in 1970), published by Jason Smith, "Gay Pride Block Party Case", Friends of the Bill of Rights Foundation (January 2012), 52; available online
- Thomas Kraemer, "Gay marriage pioneer Jack Baker starts blog", Tom's OSU (4 April 2012); available online
- Thomas Kraemer, "Jack Baker deserves mainstream press coverage after gay marriage ruling", Tom's OSU (7 July 2012); available online
- Bob Protzman, "Gay Marriage OK Predicted", St. Paul Pioneer Press (22 October 1971), p ?
- Jack Baker, "The right to be human and gay", Manitoban (13 March 1972); as published by Ken Bronson, "A Quest for Full Equality" (2004), 70; available online from Quatrefoil Library
- Mia Rabson, "Couple helped make history", Winnipeg Free Press (17 September 2004), A4
- Rich North, letter to Jack [Baker] & Mike [McConnell] (20 September 2004); available online.
- Michael K. Lavers, "NAACP president: Marriage is civil rights issue of our times" Washington Blade (21 May 2012); available online
- Patrick Condon, "Gay couple in 1971 marriage ruling reflect on new court challenges", St. Paul Pioneer Press (11 December 2012), 3A+; available online from Associated Press
- FINDINGS AND DECREE [File No. AD-19962] signed by Lindsay G. Arthur, Judge of the District Court, Juvenile Division (3 August 1971)
- Anon., "U student head adopted by homosexual friend", Minneapolis Tribune (25 August 1971), 1A
- Associated Press, "Male's adoption by roommate OKd", Rocky Mountain News, Denver (26 August 1971), 85
- Anon., "Daily Record", Mankato Free Press (16 August 1971), p. ?
- Anon., "For Release", Minnesota Student Association (7 September 1971). "Minnesota Hosts First Legally Sanctioned Same-Sex Marriage".
- Associated Press, "They're Mr. and Mr.", San Francisco Chronicle (8 September 1971), 3
- Pat Kessler, "A Rare Glimpse At Minn.'s 1st Gay Wedding In 1971", WCCO [CBS, Minnesota] (31 July 2013); available online. "What is believed to be the first same-sex marriage in the United States was performed in Minnesota."
- Naomi Pescovitz, "Pastor Reflects Back on Minn. Gay Marriage", KSTP-TV [Minneapolis, MN] (16 May 2013); available online.
- Anon., "Homosexual Wins Fight to Take Bar Examination in Minnesota", New York Times (7 January 1973), 55. "Thus the marriage remained in effect."
- Anon., "Gay married couple frustrated in adoption bid", The Family Law Reporter, published by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., 10 December 1974, vol. 1, no. 5, 2103
- Anon., "Form 1040 Instructions", Internal Revenue Service (2005), 19; available online
- Ralph H. Hopp, University Librarian, University of Minnesota (April 27, 1970); letter to Michael McConnell
- James F. Hogg, Secretary, Board of Regents, University of Minnesota (10 July 1970); letter to Michael McConnell – "... your conduct, as represented in the public and University news media, is not consistent with the best interest of the University."
- Office of Student Affairs: "Research Bulletin", University of Minnesota (Winter, 1972). "Do you think the University was justified in firing McConnell because of his open declaration of homosexuality?" yes = 10%, no = 81%, no opinion = 8%, other = 1%
- Randy Tigue, "Regent: FREE member case is a matter of public relations", Minnesota Daily (16 July 1970), 1; available online
- Bob Lundegaard, "University Ordered to Hire Homosexual", Minneapolis Tribune (10 September 1970), 23
- Anon., "Homosexual Wins a Suit over Hiring", New York Times (20 September 1970); available online, accessed February 7, 2012
- Michelle Andrea Wolf and Alfred P. Kielwasser, eds., "Gay People, Sex, and the Media", Haworth Press (1991), 237; available online, accessed February 7, 2012
- Anon., "Item 7A - Commendation of Michael McConnell", Hennepin County Board of Commissioners (30 November 2010); available online.
- Anon., "News Release", UMNews (22 June 2012); available online
- Statement on letterhead from Michael McConnell, 16 June 2012; attached to email to Kristin Lockhart, Associate Vice Prsident for Equity and Diversity.
- Anon., "For Release Any Time" DFL Gay Rights Caucus (9 June 1972). "Gay Machine Startles DFL Regulars"
- Richard Moe, Chairman, "The 1972 DFL Platform", Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor State Central Committee (9-11 June 1972 at Rochester, MN ), resolution 71.d
- Malcolm Moos, President, University of Minnesota (13 December 1972): "The Degree Of Juris Doctor With All Its Privileges And Obligations" is conferred
- Anon., "Marriage hurdle cleared, Baker to take bar exams", Minneapolis Star (28 December 1972), 2
- "Homosexual Wins Fights to Take Bar Examination in Minnesota". New York Times. January 7, 1973. Retrieved March 20, 2013.
- Anon., "Minnesota Code of Judicial Conduct", Minnesota Supreme Court (Canon 4F);available online.
- Jack Baker, "2002 Judicial Plebiscite", Minnesota State Bar Association (September 2002)
- "UNOFFICIAL RESULTS: GENERAL ELECTION". Minnesota Secretary of State. May 23, 2003. Archived from the original on March 11, 2008. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
- Gail Rosenblum, "News council's demise is bad news for all who value the truth", Star Tribune (23 February 2011), B1
- "McConnell v. United States, January 3, 2005". US District Court for Minnesota. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
- "McConnell v. United States". 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. Retrieved 21 March 2013.