3 1 Background and History Introduction: The Early Days On May 18, 1970, two men, Jack Baker and Michael McCon- nell, applied for a marriage license at the office of the county clerk for Hennepin County, Minnesota. The county clerk, Ger- ald R. Nelson, declined to issue a license, basing his decision on the fact that the applicants were of the same sex. Baker and McConnell then filed suit against Nelson, claiming that there was no specific prohibition of same-sex marriage in the Minne- sota Constitution or law. They further claimed that withhold- ing a marriage license was unconstitutional under Articles 1, 8, 9, and 14 of the U.S. Constitution (freedom of speech, cruel and unusual punishment, right to privacy, and due process and equal protection clauses). When the trial court ruled against them, Baker and McConnell appealed to the state supreme court, which affirmed the lower court’s decision, and then to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case “for want of a substantial federal question” (Baker v. Nelson 1972). As their case was working its way through the courts, Baker and McConnell continued to pursue other avenues of formal- izing their relationship. In August 1971, McConnell legally adopted Baker, and they began to enjoy a few of the rights afforded legally married opposite-sex couples. At about the Jack Baker (born Richard John Baker) and James Michael McConnell apply for a marriage license in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1970. (Minnesota Historical Society)
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