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A Rare Glimpse At Minn.’s 1st Gay Wedding In 1971

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Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – At midnight this Wednesday, Minnesota becomes the 12th state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage.

It’s been a lifetime struggle for many, including one Minneapolis couple who are believed to be the first gay couple in the United States to be married – 42 years ago.

The demonstrators who fought to legalize gay marriage in Minnesota owe a debt to this Minneapolis couple who now shun publicity, but who once shocked the nation into awareness.

In 1973, WCCO Television’s Dave Moore told the couple’s audacious story.

“Good evening. Tonight on Moore on Sunday, we’ll have some frank talk about a subject usually only spoken of in whispers: the subject is homosexuality,” Moore said.

What is believed to be the first same-sex marriage in the United States was performed in Minnesota.

The 1971 Minneapolis marriage of Jack Baker and Michael McConnell created a nationwide sensation.

Baker had legally changed his name to “Pat Lynn McConnell.” The two were granted a legal marriage license in Mankato before Blue Earth County officials could figure it out.

A young Methodist minister officiated at Baker and McConnell’s wedding, a last-minute replacement who walked into history.

Now 75 years old and retired, Pastor Roger Lynn remembers it vividly.

“Hot. it was hot. And it was very festive,” Lynn said.

He says everyone who attended the wedding at a Victorian home in Minneapolis understood the consequences of what they were doing.

“And there was a lot of excitement,” he said. “There’s a lot of excitement at a wedding anyway, but there was an excitement because of what this meant,” he said.

Lynn says it was like any other wedding, except for the two grooms on the wedding cake, and what happened after he pronounced them husband and husband.

Their kiss, broadcast on WCCO, was passionate, and to some, shocking.

“That was the moment when I really felt it viscerally, like, ‘Oh, this is different,’” Lynn said.

By consecrating those vows, Reverend Lynn became a target of controversy and hate mail.

“I got a letter from Boston addressed to ‘Gay Hippie Minister, Minneapolis,’ and it was vilifying what I had done,” he said.

Baker and McConnell mounted a public awareness campaign on the David Susskind Show, predicting eventual victory.

“We’re going to win eventually. Not this time, maybe the next time around,” Baker said.

But their groundbreaking marriage was declared illegal. The couple fought it all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court, and lost.

In the court ruling, it stated that the institution of marriage was “a union of one man and woman… as old as the book of Genesis.”

Forty-two-years later, thousands cheered as Governor Mark Dayton signed the bill legalizing gay marriage in Minnesota.

Pastor Lynn says he is still in contact with Baker and McConnell. They live in Minneapolis, don’t do interviews and their marriage license was never revoked.

“Now they’re retired and very happy…It was one of my more successful marriages,” Lynn said.

He added that Baker and McConnell won’t get married this week, because they already are.

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