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Friday, August 2, 2013

PQ letter on Jack Baker gay marriage activism vs. Steve Endean political goals

VIDEO: The 1971 Minneapolis marriage of Jack Baker and Michael McConnell created a nationwide sensation. In 1973, WCCO Television's Dave Moore told the couple's story. "Good evening. Tonight on Moore on Sunday, we'll have some frank talk about a subject usually only spoken of in whispers: the subject is homosexuality," Moore said." See related story by Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota CBS network affiliate WCCO TV station, "A Rare Glimpse At Minn.'s 1st Gay Wedding In 1971," posted July 29, 2013 . This was also linked to in blog post by Jim Burroway, "The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, July 31," posted Jul. 31, 2013. Coincidentally, I went all through my public school education with the son of the WCCO TV anchor Dave Moore and I got to see firsthand that his father Dave Moore was a quintessential liberal press reporter at home who was sympathetic to Democratic Party causes -- something that right wing Republicans always complained about with CBS News Walter Cronkite and other "liberal media elites" as Republicans like to call them.

In response to an opinion piece by Renee LaChance, PQ quest opinion, "Embrace the rainbow. We've come a long way -- or have we?" Portland, Oregon Proud Queer PQ Monthly July-August, p. 13 (PDF) accessed Jul. 18, 2013 I wrote the following letter to a Portland, Oregon gay newspaper:

As somebody who actively supported the first U.S. Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage, Baker et al. v. Nelson, Oct. 10, 1972, I've heard for decades all of the political arguments about how fighting for marriage equality distracts from gaining equality, which were made by Renee LaChance in the PQ July/Aug perspective, "We've come a long way -- or have we?"

In my experience, multiple political approaches, including both conservative and liberal ones are required. However, progress is too often undermined by activists wasting time arguing about political strategy instead of making positive changes.

For example, in the 1970's I painfully recall the future founder of the Human rights Campaign, Steve Endean, then employed as a closeted "coat and hat check boy" at a gay bar in Minneapolis, viciously criticizing the "gay marriage activism" of the University of Minnesota law student Jack Baker whose marriage had been featured in two national mass-circulation newsmagazines, which were commonly read and used for school assignments by children.

I was too young to appreciate it back then that I was witnessing a cat fight between two gay activists whose radically opposed political strategies would both turn out to be acts of genius.

Steve Endean was a genius to see the importance of starting the pro-gay HRC lobbying effort in Washington, D.C. where he helped Oregonians, including Terry Bean and others, to elect gay-friendly Senators and Congressmen from Oregon.

Similarly, Jack Baker was a genius to recognize the importance of marriage equality in an era when both women liberationists and gay liberationists viewed marriage as an obsolete institution set up by men only to oppress women. Steve Endean represented the majority who wanted to focus on repealing anti-sex sodomy laws and fight for sexual freedom.

Ironically, Stonewall era gay liberation activists, who were represented by Endean, actively rejected the earlier and more conservative political strategies of a homophile movement founder, the former Oregon State University Professor W. Dorr Legg, who later also founded the present day Log Cabin Republicans Club.

Tragically, in the 1980's all political resources were diverted to fight for the rights of AIDS victims, including Steve Endean.

Today, Jack Baker and his husband Michael McConnell are now retired and still happily married. No court, including the Supreme Court, has ordered their legally performed marriage annulled because Minnesota law did not specify gender at the time.

For more on Baker and Legg's Oregon State connection, see the history I wrote for the OSU library and available for free via the shorten URL link.

Thomas Kraemer, Founder Oregon State University Magnus Hirschfeld Fund for research concerning humans or animals with a minority sexual orientation or gender identity

(Quoted from Thomas Kraemer, "To the Editor: Progress is too often undermined by activists wasting time arguing about political strategy," PQ Monthly, August-September 2013, p. 5 posted Aug. 15, 2013 - Blog post "August/September 2013 Print Edition" posted Aug. 15, 2013 - PQ print issue August-September 2013 (PDF 14 MB))

For more, see previous posts and links: