[Michael McConnell and Jack Baker] / Kay Tobin Lahusen, Digital ID 1605976, New York Public LibraryGiven yesterday's historic Supreme Court decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, it's good to take a moment to look back at the struggles for marriage equality.
In many current debates about the direction of LGBT political struggles, marriage equality has been portrayed as a conservative move after the radicalism of 1970s Gay Liberation and later Queer politics. However, a closer look reveals that LGBT activists have been deeply concerned over the right to marry since the start of modern gay and lesbian activism. Although during the Mattachine and Daughters of Bilitis era, LGBT concerns over marriage often centered on the problems of gays and lesbians trapped in heterosexual marriages, with the onset of Gay Liberation politics attention did turn to the actual rights of gays and lesbians to marry.
Gay Activists Alliance in New York made prominent demonstrations for marriage equality early on, including a dramatic demonstration at the New York City Marriage License Bureau in 1971. But the most notable early marriage equality activism was undertaken by Jack Baker and James McConnell. In 1970 Baker and McConnell applied for a marriage license in Minnesota. When they were refused a marriage license by the by Clerk, they appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court, and later, with the help of the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union, the appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court dismissed their appeal in 1972. Undaunted, McConnell legally adopted Baker in 1971 in order to obtain legal recognition of their relationship. They have continued to advocate for marriage equality all these years. 41 years later, the U.S. Supreme court has overturned DOMA, and same-sex marriage will be legal in Minnesota this August and 12 other states, thanks to advocates like Baker and McConnell, and so many others. For more, check out these titles:
Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution by Linda Hirshman
From the Closet to the Altar: Courts, Backlash, and the Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage by Michael J. Klarman