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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Mainstream ignoring US Supreme Court's 1972 gay marriage decision

Baker et al. v. Nelson, United States Reports, Volume 409, Cases Adjudged in the Supreme Court, October Term, 1972, Oct. 10, 1972 'dismissed for want of a substantial federal question.'

PHOTO: An original printed bound copy of first U.S. Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage that was initiated by University of Minnesota law student Jack Baker in and his lover Michael McConnell in 1970 after they noticed that Minnesota State law did not specify the gender of married couples and they got married: Baker et al. v. Nelson, Oct. 10, 1972, "United States Reports, Volume 409, Cases Adjudged in the Supreme Court, October Term, 1972," U.S. Government Printing Office, 1974, p. 810. (See previous posts Baker v. Nelson 1972 Supreme Court order on gay marriage (7/22/09), Arthur Leonard CA Prop 8 appeal still citing Jack Baker gay marriage case (8/3/12) and (NY Constitutional law Professor) Arthur S. Leonard on Baker v Nelson gay marriage case (7/28/09))

National press coverage, of the recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to hear cases concerning anti-gay marriage laws, is ignoring the Supreme Court's literally one-sentence-long ruling in 1972 that essentially said marriage is a matter of state laws, without any substantial Federal interest.

Even though the Supreme Court takes only a few cases, it was forced to rule on gay marriage in 1972 by obscure court rules, of that era that were exploited by the University of Minnesota law student Jack Baker, who had been legally married in Minnesota when the law did not specify gender of marriage applicants.

In a personal communication last year, the ferociously private Jack Baker and his spouse Michael McConnell, now in their 70s, still consider themselves legally married, even though Minnesota later outlawed gay marriage, because no court has legally revoked their marriage license.

As a classmate of Baker, I heard firsthand Baker's constitutional law professors worrying that his case was too soon and it might set a legal precedent that would be hard to overturn. The professors were right it set a precedent that has been cited in every same-sex marriage case, but ironically, it has not been ventral to any judge's later decision.

Here are some links to interesting writing on the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to hear some of the gay marriage cases: