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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Baker marriage hits N.Y. Times front page only 4 decades late

Baker marriage on N.Y. Times front page May 17, 2015

PHOTO: The May 17, 2015 Sunday New York Times newspaper featured the 1971 marriage of Jack Baker and Michael McConnell on the front page, only four decades late, in a news article by Erik Eckholm, "Same-sex marriage? Done That, Back in 1971," New York Times, Sunday edition (as printed in Seattle) May 17, 2015, p. 1, 15 also published online as "The Same-Sex Couple Who Got a Marriage License in 1971" posted May 16, 2015. (See previous stories by Erik Eckholm, the legal correspondent of The New York Times) NOTE: The above is an original photograph taken by Thomas Kraemer (c) 2015 who grants limited copyright permission for it to be reposted by others provided a link and text citation is provided to this blog post.

I learned decades ago in business that if a news story was not printed in the "New York Times," then it will not be widely reported across America by other editors, and therefore the story will disappear and be forgotten. This is why I was so happy that Jack Baker and Michael McConnell finally succeeded in getting their story on the front page of the "New York Times" because editors around the world will see it and help spread the word about their pioneering marriage.

The editors of my small town newspaper should also be happy that they scooped the "New York Times" by publishing before the "New York Times" my opinion piece concerning Jack Baker's pioneering gay marriage and my reference to an obscure opinion piece on "homosexual marriage" that was published by a former Oregon State University Professor W. Dorr Legg in 1953. (See previous posts My opinion on upcoming gay marriage court decisions printed in local newspaper (1/28/15) and Gay marriage discussion in 1953 vs. 1963 and today (12/16/13))

One of the reasons Baker's marriage activism was suppressed by the New York news media for so long is because of the Washington, D.C. and N.Y. gay rights lobby groups actively opposed Baker's agenda of gay marriage equality and they instead wanted to first seek anti-discrimination laws and the repeal of sodomy laws against gay sex. The official reason given by the Human Rights Campaign was that they did not want to seek marriage equality because it might set a precedent against gay marriage that would be hard to break. In fact, lower courts refused to take the U.S. Supreme Court "Baker v. Nelson" decision seriously, even to this day as the "New York Times" story reported.

One nitpick with the story, the "N.Y. Times" reporter states that Baker and McConnell "lost their U.S. Supreme Court case," but he fails to state how the boilerplate decision, "dismissed for lack of a substantial Federal question," was often used by the U.S. Supreme Court back then to leave things up to state and not Federal laws, which in this case, Minnesota's law did not forbid same sex marriages and no court ever annulled their legally performed marriage, which had been done in front of witnesses and would be upheld as legally binding in normal court proceedings despite the lost County Records mentioned in the story.

The "New York Times" reporter correctly mentioned that many gay activists were more focused on legalizing gay sex and sexual freedom (this was pre-AIDS days when it was thought by medical doctors that all sexually transmitted diseases could be easily cured by a pill or shot) however, the reporter failed to document how the Human rights Campaign founder Steve Endean actively opposed Jack Baker's agenda of marriage equality in favor of compromise -- he had been a political opponent of Baker at the University of Minnesota. See my previous posts:

May 18, 1970 Michael McConnell and Jack Baker married by Hennepin County Minnesota Justice of the Peace

PHOTO: May 18, 1970 Michael McConnell and Jack Baker were married by Hennepin County Minnesota Justice of the Peace. (See previous post Life Magazine gay marriage 1971 (11/20/08))

ONE Magazine Aug. 1953 'Homosexual marriage?' cover headline PHOTO: Laws against same-sex marriage would not be passed until decades later. ONE Magazine was ahead of the time when it mentioned the idea of "homosexual marriage" in 1953 long before "gay marriage" or same-sex marriage become a cause of some gay liberationists. (See previous posts Gay marriage discussion in 1953 vs. 1963 and today (12/16/13) and Gay free speech victory 50th anniversary (1/18/08) plus James T. Sears, PhD, "1953: When ONE Magazine, Headlined 'Homosexual Marriage,'" posted Aug. 11, 2003)

UPDATE: May 26, 2015 My letter to the editor:

The Gazette-Times printed a scoop -- my "As I See It" Jan. 28, "A local perspective on gay unions" -- well before the May 17 front-page story in the Sunday "New York Times" national edition, ""Same-sex marriage? Done That, Back in 1971."

This story is timely because of the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, which they first decided in the 1972 "Baker v. Nelson" case.

The N.Y. Times legal correspondent interviewed Jack Baker and his Husband Michael McConnell who, despite the objections of gay liberationists, married in the 1970's unaware of a 1953 essay on "homosexual marriage" published in an academic journal edited by the former Oregon State University Professor W. Dorr Legg.

Dr. Legg left OSU during World War II to serve as a Christian minister at Camp Adair near Corvallis and later founded the present-day Log Cabin Republicans group.

I hope future research by an OSU Ph.D. student will document why it took four decades for the N.Y. Times to report Baker's story, which in my opinion was suppressed by the founder of the Human Rights Campaign, who I personally knew was a political adversary of Baker at the University of Minnesota.

(Editor's note: The Jan. 28 "As I see it" is available at The New York Times article is available at

(Quoted from Thomas Kraemer, "Some intriguing history on same-sex marriage," Gazette-Times, May 26, 2015, p. A7)