The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, September 3

Jim Burroway

September 3rd, 2014

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Bloomington, IN; Las Vegas, NV; Lincoln City, OR; Roanoke, VA; Stavanger, Norway; Worcester, MA.

Other Events This Weekend: Pride Night Kings Island, Cincinnati, OH (Friday Night Only); Womenfest, Key West, FL; Gay Ski Week, Queenstown, New Zealand; Bears on Ice, Reykjavic, Iceland; Sierra Stampede Gay Rodeo, Sacramento, CA; North Louisiana Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Shreveport, LA; International Bears Week, Sitges, Spain.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GLC Voice (Minneapolis, MN), November 1979, page 9.

From GLC Voice (Minneapolis, MN), November 1979, page 9.

I haven’t been able to find out anything about this business. Remer is located in the Chippewa  National Forest, about a three hour drive north of the Twin Cities. Bemidji has its giant Paul Bunyan statute, Darwin brags that it has the world’s largest ball of twine, and Remer, with its population of about 370 can boast a ten-foot tall Bald Eagle right there on the main drag.

Michael McConnell and Jack Baker, just after saying "I Do."

Michael McConnell and Jack Baker, just after saying “I Do.”

The First Legal Same-Sex Marriage in the United States: 1971. Jack Baker (see Mar 10) and Michael McConnell (see May 19) first tried to get a marriage license a year earlier in Minneapolis (see May 18). They were not only denied their license, but Michael McConnell lost his job at the University of Minnesota when news of their application hit the news. Baker and McConnell sued in state court, but that would potentially keep things tied up for years. The pair came up with an alternate solution. In August of 1971, McConnell legally adopted Baker in an arrangement that would allow them at least some of the benefits of marriage (inheritance, medical decision-making, and even reduced tuition for Baker who a student at U.M.), but they were still denied their ultimate goal.

But there was one other crucial thing they got out of that adoption: Jack Baker had a new legal and gender-neutral name, Pat Lyn McConnell. And with that, they went to the Blue Earth County courthouse in Makato, Minnesota and applied for a marriage license. They got it on August 16, 1971. They asked a Methodist minister to perform the wedding, and he agreed. They even went through the lengthy pre-marital counseling that was required for any couple about to marry in the Methodist Church. But one day before the wedding was to take place, the minister got the jitters and backed out.

With little time left, they turned to a friend, Pastor Roger Lynn, who had volunteered with the couple in Minneapolis’s LGBT community center. Lynn immediately agreed, since the Methodist Church had no rules specifically banning same-sex couples from marrying. “The Methodist church has always taken a strong stand on social issues,” he said. “I expected that the progressive side of the church would support me.” Baker and McConnell arranged for a friend who worked at a local TV station to film the ceremony.

Lynn pronounced the couple “husband and husband,” and the two kissed. From then on, as far as they were concerned, they were legally and really married. Once news of the marriage got out, things got rocky. A retired Baptist minister waged an unsuccessful campaign to get Baker expelled from the University of Minnesota’s Law School, saying that Baker was “unfit to enforce the lawÃ¥ because he is himself an avowed law breaker.” (Gay relationships had been reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor in 1967, but those convicted were still liable for up to one year in jail.) Hennepin County Attorney George M. Scott referred Rev. Lynn’s actions to a Grand Jury in early 1972, but the Grand Jury refused to indict him. He was however fired from his job and formally reprimanded by his presiding Bishop.

In October, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Baker and McConnell’s challenge to Hennepin County’s original 1970 denial of their marriage license. The Court declined to hear Baker v. Nelson “for want of a substantial federal question.” McConnell and Baker however contend that the license they did get from Blue Earth County was perfectly legal and remained in effect, although the I.R.S. didn’t see it that way. They filed joint returns for 1972 and 1973 with no problems. But in 1974, an I.R.S. official rejected their joint returned, changed their status to single and recalculated their taxes for them. By doing so, it meant that they two weren’t liable for the so-called “marriage penalty” and had overpaid their taxes by $309 (nearly $1,500 in today’s money). The couple refused to accept the refund. Baker told a reporter, “We realize that the legal position we take necessarily requires us to pay about $150 each year in taxes as a married couple over and above what would be expected if we filed as singles. However, we also recognize that privileges and responsibilities go hand in hand. Hence, we accept the good with the bad.”

The two are still together, living a quiet, happily married life in Minneapolis.

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

Bose in St. Peter MN

September 3rd, 2014

Oh, wow… a Remer MN resort advertising itself for gays & lesbians…

For the first half of the 70s (my adolescence), my family periodically made its way to Remer to visit Great-Aunt Nell, a quirky, cantankerous 80-something at that point. Remer, to my memory, was like a lot of small MN towns that was touristy enough to serve the resort dwellers in the summer (plenty of bait shops), emptying out the travelers otherwise except for hunting seasons.

Nell was memorable for cutting an unlikely silhouette… only one short marriage in the earlier years which ended in divorce, no kids… loved to have Mom there so they could sneak cigarettes together, never mind there was no one to scold Nell except her doctor… sweet as the candy she had ready for us, yet with an edge you didn’t dare cross… unless you were one of her life-long series of dachshunds, never trained, continuously nervous and barking when strangers (us) were in the house.

I wouldn’t begin coming out until my 30s. In the period we were visiting Nell, my adolescent understanding was that being gay was only a weird experience of people living far away in massive cities… nothing to be found anywhere near the tiny towns I knew in MN resort & mining country.

What a treat to add a sliver of awareness that the gay community was right there near Nell… maybe even folks she knew, or at least she knew who was gossiping or telling tales about things going on near by.

Ben in Oakland

September 3rd, 2014

Check your dates, Jim. It’s September, not August.

Jim Burroway

September 3rd, 2014

I was looking ahead and noticed what an august month September has been.

Yeah. That’s it.

Ben in oakland

September 3rd, 2014

Sure it was. Sure…….



September 3rd, 2014

I’m delighted that Jack and Mike have had all these many years together – but a marriage contracted fraudulently (as any court would have found, and still might, given that the change of name was a deliberate attempt to hoodwink officials into granting a marriage license) is void ab initio, is it not?

Mark F.

September 3rd, 2014

@RussTX Their marriage is not legally valid. I understand they have declined to be remarried legally.


September 6th, 2014


Don’t quit your day job to play pretend lawyer. Fraud does not exist in nature and contracts are not voided by some supernatural force. Fraud, or to be precise, fraud in the inducement must be determined by a court of law upon the timely filing of a claim and a showing of proof as to each of the elements of the claim. If a court determines that fraud in the inducement occurred, that court might, depending upon the facts, void the contract in whole or in part.

In this case, there was no action by the state of Minnesota to void the marriage license on the basis of fraud. No action was filed even after the couple appeared on national television to discuss their marital status and the name change and even after they filed joint tax returns as a married couple. After 4 decades, limitations, laches, and ratification defenses would apply, even assuming that all of the elements could be proven.

It would be great if BTB would actually add to the knowledge base, call the couple and ask them how they handled legal and financial matters over the decades. Did they continue to file joint returns after those first few years? Did they apply for mortgages or other loans as a couple? How was insurance handled? Did they seek discounts at vendors available to married couples?

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