Michael McConnell Files
Scope and Content
The file was created jointly through the efforts of Michael McConnell and Jack Baker, gay activists involved in the fight to extend political recognition and marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples in the state of Minnesota.
Materials include administrative documents, correspondence, journals, magazines, newspapers, newsletters, bulletins, flyers, brochures, pamphlets, posters, catalogs, ephemera and directories that document activities, events and ideas associated with the Gay Liberation movement of the 1970s and 1980s. Inclusive dates for the collection are 1965-2006; bulk dates are 1970-1984.
The collection has been maintained in the original order created by the donors. The first series of the collection, Publications, consists of eight subseries. The subseries consist of historical materials featuring particular aspects of the gay publications, including lesbian-focused periodicals and newspapers; Twin Cities organizational newspapers, newsletters, flyers and related correspondence; US metropolitan and regional news publications, regional and national organization newsletters and flyers, and commercial periodicals with gay content. In addition to the various serial publications, the collection contains self-published flyers, brochures and newsletters reflecting the grass-roots nature of many of the organizations represented in the collection.
Many of the publications in the collections represent the first or early edition(s) of the publication run. In most cases, publication runs are not complete. Original materials, including correspondence related to an organization are identified at the folder level.
- Creation: 1943-2016
- McConnell, James Michael. (Person)
Language of Materials
Collection material in English
Restrictions on Access
Items in this collection do not circulate and may be used in-house only. Materials will be retrieved from and returned to storage areas by staff members.
Restrictions on Use
Please contact staff regarding copyright status of these materials. Researchers may quote from the collection under fair use provisions of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code).
Michael McConnell was born in 1942, grew up in Oklahoma, and received his Master’s degree in Library Science in the early 1960s. He met Jack Baker in Norman, Oklahoma in 1966. McConnell and Baker, committed to each other as life partners with the intention of becoming legally married, moved to Lawrence, Kansas in 1968. McConnell worked as an acquisitions and reference librarian at Park College, while Baker commuted to an engineering job in Topeka. In 1969, both men moved to Minneapolis. McConnell accepted an offer of a position as head cataloger on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus library. Baker applied to and enrolled in the University of Minnesota Law School.
Almost immediately upon arriving in Minneapolis, McConnell and Baker’s lives were immersed in activism in the nascent Twin Cities gay community. Baker joined F.R.E.E. (FREE/Fight Repression of Erotic Expression) a local group committed to advancing homosexual visibility and rights. With John Preston, McConnell co-founded Gay House, an early gay community center in Minneapolis. McConnell’s hiring documents were presented to the University Board of Regents for routine review and approval . On May 18, 1970, the couple filed for and were denied a marriage license in Hennepin County. The breaking story quickly made national news. The couple appeared on network television, and in popular news publication, including LOOK and LIFE magazines. McConnell’s job offer was subsequently revoked by the regents, who contended that McConnell’s notoriety was detrimental to the University. McConnell took his employment discrimination case to court, soliciting the backing of state and regional library associations on his behalf. In April, 1972, The US Supreme Court refused to hear arguments on his case.
Baker, meanwhile, had become involved in campus politics in addition to gay issues. After admission to law school in 1970, Baker ran for student body president in 1971 with the intention of creating a more participatory role for students in campus governance. His agenda included agitating for student representation on Board of Regents committees, increased student-run housing and charters for a student run radio station and bookstore. He also addressed discriminatory practices in on-campus job recruitment. His student status at the law school allowed Baker to utilize student legal services to pursue a gay marriage appeal in the courts. Baker ran for student body president again in 1972, and was re-elected by a wide margin. In October 1972, after making its way through Minnesota and Supreme court, the US Supreme Court again refused to consider a case involving McConnell and Baker, this time declining to deliberate on the validity of the McConnell/Baker marriage.
In August 1971, after being denied a Hennepin County license, McConnell and Baker were able to obtain a marriage license in Blue Earth County, Minnesota by testing weaknesses in Minnesota marriage residency laws. On September 3, 1971, Rev. Roger Lynn, a Methodist minister, officiated at McConnell and Baker’s marriage ceremony in Minneapolis.
Hennepin county officials at once disputed the validity of the license. Minnesota law at the time required that a license be issued in the bride's county of residence. “Because there was no bride, officials argued, there could be no entitlement to a license. After the executed license was filed, the Hennepin County Attorney convened a grand jury, which declined to indict either the couple who procured the marriage license or the minister who authenticated it.” ¹
By the beginning of the 1980s, both McConnell and Baker were settled into their respective careers in librarianship and law. McConnell was hired by Hennepin County Libraries in 1971, where he held progressively more senior administrative positions. McConnell retired from Hennepin County Libraries with commendation in 2010. Baker ran several times as a candidate for Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. Both men continued to contest laws that limited their identity as a married couple.
A coda to the couple’s ongoing actions asserting the legitimacy of their marriage involved the filing of joint tax returns. “In 2003, Baker and McConnell filed a joint tax return for the second time. They amended their individual returns for the year 2000, filing jointly as a single couple, pursuant to the marriage license previously issued by a Minnesota District Court. The IRS challenged the validity of the marriage license and argued that, even if the license were valid, the Defense of Marriage Act (voted into law by Congress in 1996), did not allow it to be recognized. An appeal was dismissed by the U.S. District Court of Minnesota and affirmed by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.” ²
1, 2. Ken Bronson, A Quest for Full Equality(2004), available online from Quatrefoil Library.
The collection documents the history of the Gay Liberation Movement during the 1970s and early 1980s, early Gay advocacy and political organizations, and the couple's groundbreaking Marriage Equality lawsuit in 1970.
The donors' original file arrangement has been maintained.
Series 1, Publications, is divided into 10 subseries. The subseries include;
- Lesbian Publications
- Minneapolis-St. Paul Publications
- Significant Articles in the Gay and Non-Gay Press
- National Gay Publications
- Locally-Oriented Gay News and Publications
- National and International Publications With Gay Content
- California, Pacific Northwest, Atlantic Northeast and Canadian Publications
- Gay Magazines, Pamphlets
- Pamphlets, booklets, essays, papers on gay issues, related items
Series 2, Gay and Lesbian Pride Celebrations
Series 3, Subject Files
Series 4, FREE (Fight Repression of Erotic Expression)
Series 5, Biographical and Personal
Series 6, Jack Baker Electoral Campaigns
Series 7, Gay House
Series 8, Gay Survival Fund
Series 9, Marriage
Series 10, Full Equality, a diary
Source of acquisition
The collection was donated to the Tretter Collection by Michael McConnell and Jack Baker in 2012, 2013, and 2014.
Other Related Materials
Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, University of Minnesota Archives
Collection processed by Susan Hoffman, Jennifer Shaw, Amanda Wick, and Emily Atchison as part of a project financed in part with funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society.
- Michael McConnell Files, 1961-2014
- Susan Hoffman, Jennifer Shaw, and Amanda Wick
- May 2014
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English