Jack Baker and Michael McConnell were introduced by a mutual friend in 1966. In 1969, Baker enrolled in law school at the University of Minnesota and became active in Fight Repression of Erotic Expression (FREE), the University's LGBTQ+ student group, soon elected as president. 

While doing research during his first semester, he discovered that the Minnesota marriage statutes did not mention gender, and therefore did not explicitly prohibit same-sex marriage. Baker leveraged FREE to elevate the issue of gay marriage.

When Jack Baker and Michael McConnell became the first same-sex couple in the United States to apply for a marriage license, in 1970, Hennepin County clerk Gerald Nelson rejected their application. They then sued Nelson, claiming a constitutional right to marry in what would become a landmark Supreme Court Case.

Over the course of 1971, Baker's case would move from the District Court to the Minnesota Supreme Court, with a later appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking them to rule on the issue of same-sex marriage for the first time.

The Supreme Court dismissed the case in 1972.

Jack Baker and Michael McConnell later moved to Blue Earth County, Minnesota, where they would again apply for a marriage license. This time, McConnell went to the courthouse alone. The clerk asked no questions about the gender of his intended and issued the license in 1971.

On May 13, 2013, over forty years after Baker and McConnell first applied for a license, Minnesota legalized same-sex marriage. On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the right to marry was guaranteed to same-sex couples by the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. The majority decision declared, “Baker v. Nelson must be and now is overruled.”

Freedom to Marry was the campaign that won marriage in the United States and ignited a global movement. Freedom to Marry’s “Roadmap to Victory” national strategy focused from the beginning on setting the stage for a national victory at the Supreme Court by winning a critical mass of states, building a critical mass of public support, and ending federal marriage discrimination.

Minnesotans United for All Families was formed to defeat a 2012 ballot question that would have amended the Minnesota constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Further Reading