Before same-sex marriage was legal anywhere, Richard John “Jack” Baker and Michael McConnell got married in Minnesota. Now, that 1971 wedding has been officially recognized, giving the couple who have been married for 48 years the longest-running same-sex marriage in America.
Baker and McConnell applied for a marriage license in Hennepin County, Minnesota in 1970 and were turned down. Though the Minnesota Supreme Court later upheld the county’s refusal, Baker and McConnell applied to be married in another county, Blue Earth, Minnesota, and were approved because the county clerk didn’t realize it was a same-sex marriage, LGBTQ Nation reports.
Baker changed his legal name to the gender neutral “Pat Lyn,” to get their marriage certificate, the BBC reports. After one Methodist pastor backed out of the ceremony at the last moment, another, Roger Lynn, agreed to marry the two.
"It was very clear that these two people were in love with each other, and they were a good balance," Lynn said of the marriage to the BBC.
Baker and McConnell received letters of support from people all over the globe. One postcard from Barbados called the couple “courageous” and hoped that their “life together will be as beautiful and happy as can be.”
Now, the Social Security Administration has recognized that the 1971 marriage as legal.
On February 16, 2019, the SSA sent the couple a letter confirming that their marriage was legal and that they were both indeed entitled to each other’s spousal benefits.
“This is really a Valentine,” McConnell told LGBTQ Nation of the letter, which arrived two days after the holiday. “It proves what I’ve always said. Jack and I are in our 70s, and we’ve been married almost 50 years.”
“Our marriage is all about the power of love,” he added. “Sometimes it takes a while, but in the end, love always wins.”
McConnell wrote about their marriage in the book The Wedding Heard Round the World.