Massachusetts was the first state to recognize marriage equality in 2003 and was secured throughout the United States in 2015.
But now the Social Security Administration has recognized a marriage between two men that happened decades before Obergefell v. Hodges.
In 1970, a young man named Richard John “Jack” Baker applied for a marriage license with Michael McConnell in Hennepin County, Minnesota. They were turned down, and their claim was eventually dismissed by the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Yet prior to the Minnesota ruling, the couple reapplied in Blue Earth County, Minnesota, and successfully received a license. They were married by a Methodist minister in a quiet ceremony in a friend’s home on September 3, 1971.
The clerk in Blue Earth County had, apparently, not realized that the marriage certificate was for two men.
Once the certificate arrived back to the state, the county’s attorney simply told the clerk to not record it, but no one asked that the marriage be dissolved: the state simply acted as if it was simply not valid.
Meanwhile, Baker and McConnell have insisted ever since that their marriage was a legal one, thanks to a legitimate marriage certificate, signed by the appropriate witnesses including the minister who officiated their nuptials.
“I was only a first-year law student when I read the state’s marriage statues and realized there was nothing that prevented two men from marrying,” said Bake via a press release.
The couple is still together today, and as both men are into their 70s, they went to the state to confirm their Social Security benefits as a couple. In the process, they asked for it to be determined once and for all if their marriage is a legal one.
On September 18, 2018, a district court in Minnesota issued a ruling that said, “The marriage is declared to be in all respects valid.”
“The ruling was a long time coming, but I knew the courts would eventually rule in our favor,” said Baker. “Over the years, many legal scholars have reviewed our case and concluded that the law was on our side.”
It was now time for the federal government to respond.
February 16, 2019, just two days after Valentine’s Day, the Social Security Administration sent a letter to the couple, confirming once and for all that their 1971 marriage was legal, stating that they were indeed entitled to monthly husband’s benefits.
“This is really a Valentine,” said McConnell about the Social Security Administration’s letter.
“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,” McConnell added. “Sometimes it takes a while, but in the end, love always wins.”