Can’t Help Falling in Love

Michael McConnell and Jack Baker’s book “The Wedding Heard ‘Round the World” details their fight toward marriage equality.

In the summer of 2015, I accidentally got stuck in the Minneapolis Gay Pride Parade.

My best friend and I went downtown to see a show. We were expecting relatively quiet streets. The college students were still sleeping off their hangovers and there were no games happening at any of the stadiums.

Then we turned the street and were faced head-on with the color, noise and liveliness of thousands of people celebrating their identity.

Rainbows could be seen everywhere, drag queens were strutting down the street and glitter was being smeared on the exposed faces and arms of unsuspecting passersby.

Yet this sight is a very modern phenomenon. Within in the past 50 years, conversations about gay rights, same-sex marriage and LGBT+ acceptance have skyrocketed. One beginning of this conversation can be linked back to Michael McConnell and Jack Baker.

At a barn dance in Norman, Oklahoma, in October 1966, Michael McConnell met Jack Baker. Not even one year later, Michael and Jack pledged they would one day get married.

In a time before same-sex marriage was even a discussion point, Michael and Jack began to make waves in their local Minneapolis community as they fought for the right to marry.

Minnesota law at the time did not expressly prohibit two men to get married; however, when they applied for a marriage license they were denied.

Michael and Jack were unperturbed, and continued to search for ways to make their marriage a success.

Finally, after a complicated process involving adoption, moving and a name change, Michael and Jack obtained a marriage license from Blue Earth County and were officially married on September 3, 1971.

“When we applied for a marriage license in 1970, we set those thought currents in motion and watched them spread quickly around the world,” said Michael and Jack. “The trend is inspiring and powerful. It is also very human.”

Their story shocked the nation, never before had a same-sex couple had achieved this.

While Michael and Jack faced challenges from the government and their employers, they also inspired many LGBT+ individuals and activists who were determined to make marriage equality possible for all same-sex couples.

Today their dream is a reality. In May 2012, Minnesota passed marriage equality, and in June 2015, the Supreme Court did the same.

Apart from marriage equality, Michael and Jack were stout activists within the community in support of same-sex rights and fighting discriminatory treatment.

Michael faced a long legal battle against the University of Minnesota about job discrimination. Both men had experienced unfair treatment by police. Michael helped found Gay House, a safe place for LGBT+ individuals to gather without fear.

With these issues also competing for attention, many gay rights activists thought same-sex marriage was less important.

“The gay community was divided back then on the issue of same-sex marriage. Other gay rights activists thought marriage was beside the point; they were interested in sexual freedom, not long-term commitment,” the couple said. “But Jack and I have always demanded full and absolute equality. No excuses. No exceptions.”

In the decade after their marriage, Michael and Jack were popular among the media. But in 1980, they chose to leave the public arena and watched as their marriage took ahold of the gay community and led to greater demands for equality.

As for the future, Michael and Jack predict more visibility will happen when hate and division diminish.

“The time will come when human being will see all committed, loving people as just that, not labels or boxes that define only a party of who someone truly is.”

Michael and Jack continue to live happily together in their Minneapolis home. They love to see the young activists moving toward greater equality for LGBT+ individuals.

“We waited a long time to see equal treatment for gay citizens upheld in our country,” said the couple. “We’re delighted we’ve lived long enough to see it happen.”

The entirety of Michael and Jack’s story can be found in their book “The Wedding Heard ‘Round the World.”.

If you, or anyone you know is struggling with their sexual identity, don’t be afraid to talk or reach out. If you see the “LGBTQ Safe Zone” sticker on anyone’s door, know they are committed to listening to you and understanding your situation. There also more sources through this link or

One Reply to “Can’t Help Falling in Love”

  1. Great article! Hope those who are struggling will find peace and hope. They will see they are not alone and that Michael and Jack struggled 50 years ago for the same equality.

Leave a Reply