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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Book by Michael McConnell on his marriage to Jack Baker that led to the first Supreme Court case on gay marriage

Cover jacket of 2016 book by Michael McConnell, with Jack Baker, about the world's first gay marriage

PHOTO: (click on photo to enlarge) The front and back cover jacket for the book by Michael McConnell, with Jack Baker, as Told to Gail Langer Karwoski, "The Wedding Heard 'Round the World - America's First Gay Marriage," University of Minnesota Press, 2016. The back cover book review blurbs include one from Thomas Kraemer, founding benefactor of the Oregon State University Foundation Magnus Hirschfeld Fund for research concerning humans or animals with a minority sexual orientation or gender identity: "This is the only first-person account of two men who legally married, shortly after the Stonewall riot, and who recognized the importance of marriage in an era it was disregarded by society and angrily rejected by gay activists." (See "Celebrating the McConnell Files. Files document first U.S. couple to apply for a same-sex marriage license," University of Minnesota, umn.edu posted October 28, 2015 and my previous blog post Baker on gay marriage in 1972 vs. 2015 reaction to Supreme Court ruling (7/17/15))

Although same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide only recently by the 2015 ruling of the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), the court's opinion legally cited their first ruling on gay marriage in the 1972 Baker v. Nelson case. (See previous posts Arthur Leonard CA Prop 8 appeal still citing Jack Baker gay marriage case (8/3/12) and Baker v. Nelson 1972 Supreme Court order on gay marriage (7/22/09))

For some unknown reason, perhaps the bias of back East gay activists, the pioneering gay marriage activism of Jack Baker and Michael McConnell has been continually ignored by both the mainstream press and even by other gay activists. For example, a nationally respected and very knowledgeable gay activist recently wrote the following year-end summary, for a major liberal website, which omitted any mention of the 1972 Baker case:

"The ruling by the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges, bringing marriage equality to the entire United States, was profound, empowering and simply majestic.

"Having the highest court in the land rule that same-sex couples are to be afforded the same dignity and respect under the U.S. Constitution as heterosexual couples was a monumental, hard-fought achievement.

"The couples and individuals who battled in state after state for this right -- eventually pushing the case to the high court -- were our heroes, as were the visionary attorneys at the forefront, including Mary Bonauto, Evan Wolfson, and Robbie Kaplan.

"Though the U.S. was late to the game compared to other countries that had brought marriage equality to their citizens, the Obergefell decision was surely a game-changer, as the U.S. has enormous global influence. The impact here and around the world can't be underestimated, and we saw enormous positive change in the months following, in part because of Obergefell, both in the states and globally.

"But the backlash to Obergefell can't be underestimated as well: Within hours anti-gay forces were diminishing the win, focusing on the narrow 5-4 decision, the unclear if lofty language of Justice Kennedy's majority decision and the sharp dissent by Chief Justice Roberts. "Religious liberty" became their mantra, as they moved to make themselves immune from the ruling via legislative efforts.

"It became clear that Obergefell was a powerful beginning -- not an end -- and that we'd be back at the high court many times, something LGBT Americans must fully comprehend if we're to secure full equality and not succumb to victory blindness."

(Quoted from Michelangelo Signorile, "Big Wins, Bigotry And Backlash: The Queer Political Stories Of 2015 - Huge wins followed by equally huge backlash. Obergefell -- And Beyond," huffingtonpost.com posted Dec. 12, 2015)

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: the first court case on same-sex marriage was initiated by a University of Minnesota law student Jack Baker in 1970: 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. The Appeal was "dismissed for want of a substantial federal question." Notice how this same phrase was used to dismiss scads of other cases in that era. The court seemed to be using it as shorthand to say a case was a matter of state law and not federal law. In fact, Baker's marriage has remained legal to this day because no court has ever ordered his legally performed marriage to be annulled or voided. See previous posts Arthur Leonard CA Prop 8 appeal still citing Jack Baker gay marriage case (8/3/12), Baker v. Nelson 1972 Supreme Court order on gay marriage (7/22/09) and Supreme Court on Jack Baker's gay marriage case 42 years later (3/26/13).

 Michael McConnell, 73, and Jack Baker, 73, at their home in Minneapolis, Minnesota on July 1, 2015

PHOTO: Gay marriage pioneers Michael McConnell, 73, and Jack Baker, 73, at their home in Minneapolis, Minnesota on July 1, 2015. (Courtesy Angela Jimenez) See previous post Baker on gay marriage in 1972 vs. 2015 reaction to Supreme Court ruling (7/17/15)

Before I wrote the book jacket blurb (see photo above), I had the honor of reading a galley proof of the new book by Michael McConnell, with Jack Baker, as Told to Gail Langer Karwoski, "The Wedding Heard 'Round the World - America's First Gay Marriage," University of Minnesota Press, 2016.

I just received a final printed copy from the first press run of the book and I hope to post my comments on it soon.