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Monday, May 22, 2017

Baker-McConnell marriage in 'The Advocate' 50th anniversary issue

Baker-McConnell marriage in 'The Advocate' 50th anniversary issue June/July 2017, p. 81

PHOTO: Cover of "The Advocate" magazine print edition (left) included inside (right) a photo of Jack Baker and Michael McConnell being legally married in 1970 as part of the article by Jacob Anderson-Minshall, "Marriage Equality Was Won by Widowers - the love stories behind the landmark cases both ended tragically," The Advocate, Jun.-Jul. 2017, p.80-81 posted 5/3/2017. (Note: This was a special 50th anniversary edition of "The Advocate") As a law student, Baker took his marriage equality case to the U.S. Supreme Court (Baker v. Nelson 1972) where the court's decision essentially said that marriage is decided by State laws and not Federal laws. Baker believes his marriage is still valid because Minnesota State law did not prohibit same-sex marriage at that time, and so he has initiated legal proceedings to establish that fact. (See previous post Book by Michael McConnell on his marriage to Jack Baker that led to the first Supreme Court case on gay marriage (12/29/15))

The article describes how the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment and 5th Amendment were central to the two landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases on same-sex marriage, which in both cases involved a spouse that had died and the surviving spouse sought equal treatment under the law as given to any married couple:

". . . And it started decades ago. Before Michael McConnell agreed to move in with his boyfriend, he insisted Jack Baker . . . in 1970, they became the first same-sex couple to apply for a marriage license and took their fight to the Supreme Court (clearly, they lost). . .

"Lesbian couple Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer had been together for 40 years when a doctor told Spyer she only had a year to live. . . . They dashed up to Canada to wed in 2007. Spyer passed away two years later. Then the 80-year-old Windsor was hit with a $360,000 estate tax bill because the federal government didn't recognize their marriage. . . . took Windsor v. United States to the Supreme Court, challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. On June 26, 2013, in a 5-4 decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court ruled that DOMA violated Fifth Amendment protection . . .

"Ohio residents Jim Obergefell and John Arthur had been together two decades when the Supreme Court struck down DOMA. . . . couple quickly flew to Maryland to get married. . . When Arthur died not long afterwards, Obergefell was denied the right to be listed as the surviving spouse on Arthur's death certificate. Ohio hadn't legalized or granted recognition of same-sex marriages, so the state didn't consider Obergefell a spouse. He sued in Obergefell et al. v Hines. A federal district judge ruled Ohio must recognize the marriage, but the Sixth Circuit reversed that decision. . .

"Then June 25, 2015, in another 5-to-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell's favor, arguing the U.S. Constitution required states to not only recognize same-sex marriages from other states, but also allow same-sex marriages in their own state. In the opinion, Justice Kennedy referenced the Fourteenth Amendment . . ."

(Quoted from Jacob Anderson-Minshall, "Marriage Equality Was Won by Widowers - the love stories behind the landmark cases both ended tragically," 50th Anniversary edition, The Advocate, Jun.-Jul. 2017, p.80-81 posted 5/3/2017)

While it is true Baker "lost" in the sense that his case did not establish legal same-sex marriage across America, Baker won in the sense that the U.S. Supreme Court's "Baker v. Nelson" decision left marriage up to State law and at that time the State of Minnesota had no law against same-sex marriage. This is why Baker believes his marrage is still legally valid, and he has initiated legal proceedings to establish this fact.

One final unrelated note aside, my low vision blindness has worsen to the point where I am unable to read the print edition of "The Advocate," other than small portions with assistive devices that are not practical for reading very much. As a result, I am reluctantly dropping my mail subscription after five decades of reading "The Advocate" magazine. Online reading will never replace printed magazines, which have been curated by a good editor and printed in a way that can be easily browsed and skim read.