New Book Depicts the First Gay Marriage in America

gay marriage, minnesota, Gail Langer Karwoski,The Wedding Heard Round the World, America’s First Gay Marriage, michael mcconnell, jack baker

It’s been 44 years since Michael McConnell and Jack Baker got married in Minnesota, sparking a legal and professional journey that included gay-rights activism, fighting job discrimination, and campaigning for marriage equality. Still together and living in Minneapolis, they tell their story to writer Gail Langer Karwoski in the new book The Wedding Heard ’Round the World: America’s First Gay Marriage.
 

gay marriage, minnesota, Gail Langer Karwoski,The Wedding Heard Round the World, America’s First Gay Marriage
Photo by Charlotte Brooks

McConnell and Baker were profiled and photographed in 1970 for a LOOK magazine feature about the American family. “We were young and innocent, what can I say?” McConnell laughs today. 
 

gay marriage, minnesota, Gail Langer Karwoski,The Wedding Heard Round the World, America’s First Gay Marriage
Photo by Paul Hagen

A campaign poster for Baker’s run for class president at the U of M. Holding a baby is Dinkytown restaurateur Giovanna D’Agostina, better known as Mama D (she died in 2009 at the age of 94). “She was beloved and well-known to students and faculty on campus,” McConnell says. “And she was a dear friend and supporter to us over the years.”
 

Gay marriage, Gail Langer Karwoski,The Wedding Heard Round the World, America’s First Gay Marriage
Photo by Kay Tobin Lahusen

‡On their honeymoon, the couple wore hand-made robes that were a wedding gift from McConnell’s mother. “Jack has our rings on his finger,” McConnell says. “They were made by a friend who was a goldsmith and silversmith. Put together, they spell out Jack loves Mike. And when you reverse them, they say, Mike loves Jack.”
 

gay marriage, minnesota, Gail Langer Karwoski,The Wedding Heard Round the World, America’s First Gay Marriage
Photo by melissa davidson, studio threesixty5

‡McConnell and Baker today in their Minneapolis home, with friend and co-author Karwoski. While their marriage license was never officially recorded in Mankato, McConnell is confident that history will vindicate their union. “We have a dispute still going on with those folks,” he says. “But eventually this will be resolved. We’re patient.”
 

gay marriage, minnesota, Gail Langer Karwoski,The Wedding Heard Round the World, America’s First Gay Marriage, pride parade
photo courtesy of the jean-nickolaus tretter colection in glbt studies, u of m libraries

McConnell and Baker march in the 1974 Gay Pride Parade in Minneapolis. “This was about three years after the first Gay Pride,” says McConnell. “That one had 25 people in Loring Park. By 1974, there were between one and two thousand people—it exploded big time.”
 

Read an excerpt from The Wedding Heard ’Round the World: America’s First Gay Marriage.

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