Jack Baker and Michael McConnell
Above, Michael McConnell and Jack Baker photographed by Kay Tobin Lahusen, 1970.
Given the New York State Senate’s rejection of marriage equality last week, it seems a good moment to remember the history of LGBT struggles for marriage rights in the U.S. During the early years of the modern American LGBT civil rights struggle, during the 1950s through 1960s, marriage was a lively topic of discussion. Most of these discussions of marriage in early LGBT political journals like One and The Ladder focused on how to sustain long-term homosexual relationships in a homophobic world, rather than fighting for equal rights to marry. However the most prominent discussions of “gay marriage” in those early years concerned the viability of heterosexual marriage for gays and lesbians—whether gays and lesbians should marry heterosexually in order to secure social and cultural protection. A major milestone was reached in 1970 when Jack Baker and his partner James Michael McConnell applied and sued for the right to marry in Minnesota. Their case reached the Supreme Court, where they lost when the Court refused to hear their case. Almost 40 years of political struggle for marriage equality have ensued. Five states currently allow same-sex marriage, but it is not recognized at the federal level due to the Defense of Marriage Act. For more info on marriage equality struggles and their legal and social history check out these recent books:
Beyond Straight and Gay Marriage: Valuing All Families Under the Law by Nancy D. Polikoff
Making It Legal: a Guide to Same-Sex Marriage, Domestic Partnership & Civil Unionsby Frederick C. Hertz with Emily Doskow