Richard Baker & James McConnell

Richard Baker & James McConnell

Married September 3, 1971

Perhaps some day June 26 will be a holiday recognizing the historic import of the US Supreme Court decision on that date in 2015 when the Court decided in Obergefell v Hodges that same -sex marriage was legal according to the US Constitution.

Some day.

Richard Baker & James McConnell

Richard John Baker and James Michael McConnell met at a barn party on Halloween night, 1966, in Norman, Oklahoma. They fell in love and on March 10, 1967 Baker proposed to McConnell.  McConnell said yes, but only if they could marry.

Yes you read correctly. It was 1967 and of course the large majority of Americans would have found the idea of two men marrying as laughable as it was illegal.

Richard Baker & James McConnell

Long road

In 1970, the couple lived in Minneapolis and in May they kept their and several other same-sex couples applied for marriage licenses to Minneapolis court clerk Gerald R. Nelson. The clerk denied the licenses saying that marriage was limited to “persons of the opposite sex,” though the Minnesota laws said nothing about such a limitation.

Baker and McConnell sued. Not only did the judge uphold the clerk’s decision, but he specifically ordered that no such licenses be issued.

Despite the setback, both men were determined to find a way forward. McConnell adopted Baker in August 1971 so that the couple would be able to access some tax benefits and inheritance rights for each other. Also Jack Baker legally assumed the gender-neutral name “Pat Lynn McConnell” and on August 16, 1971, using Baker’s new name, the town clerk of Mankato, a small town west of Minneapolis in Blue Earth County, issued them a marriage license.

Richard Baker & James McConnell


On September 3, 1971, the Rev. Roger Lynn of the United Methodist Church officiated their marriage  in a private ceremony.

The Blue Earth County Attorney challenged the legitimacy of their marriage license, but a grand jury “found the question not worth pursuing.” Baker and McConnell considered themselves legally married from then on.

Six weeks after their wedding, on October 15, 1971, the Minnesota  Supreme Court ruled that marriage “is a union of man and woman” that the Constitution did not provide for same-sex couples to get married.

Richard Baker & James McConnell

Federal appeal

Baker and McConnell appealed their case to the US Supreme Court. Almost exactly a year later, on October 10, 1972, that Court stated: “Appeal from Sup. Ct. Minn. dismissed for want of a substantial federal question.”

That one sentence established a powerful and long-lasting precedent, one often used by the opponents of marriage equality for the next 30 years.

Richard Baker & James McConnell

A life together

Richard Baker & James McConnell

Baker and McConnell continued their lives together as a happily married couple and continued their activism. Baker became an attorney and a local politician, and McConnell had a 37 year career as a librarian with Hennepin County. They have both retired and continue to live in Minnesota.

Wedding Heard ‘Round the World

Richard John Baker v. Gerald R Nelson

In 2016 the University of Minnesota Press published The Wedding Heard ‘Round the World, America’s First Gay Marriage written  by Michael McConnell with Jack Baker.

Satisfying Coda

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.”

February 16, 2019, just two days after Valentine’s Day, the Social Security Administration sent a letter to Jack Baker and Michael McConnell confirming once and for all that their 1971 marriage was legal, stating that they were indeed entitled to monthly husband’s benefits.

Link >>> Marriage Equality dot org story

Richard Baker & James McConnell

Donovan Sunshine Superman

Donovan Sunshine Superman

Released July 1, 1966
Hit the Billboard #1 on…
September 3, 1966

Donovan Sunshine Superman

Donovan Sunshine Superman

Ear Worm

Donovan’s “Sunshine Superman” is one of those songs whose first few notes are immediately recognizable. And after those first few notes we realize we are singing along, Sunshine came softly a-through my…window today.

It may also be of interest to note two of the personnel for the song: Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones. A Led Zeppelin cover of the song would have been interesting.

In a Guardian newspaper piece, Donovan said that, “‘It’s primarily a love song – but I was also trying to get to the invisible fourth dimension of transcendental superconscious vision.” 

Donovan Sunshine Superman

Linda Lawrence

According to Donovan in the love interest was Linda Lawrence. When he first saw her she was the recently ex-girlfriend of Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones and Linda did not want another spotlight boyfriend. Too many paparazzi. She moved to LA.

Four years later Donovan rented his house to two Americans, one of them called Lorey. Lorey went to a party at Eric Clapton’s house, met Linda Lawrence there, and invited her to her rented cottage. Who did Linda happen to meet there? Who did Linda happen to marry a few weeks later? Who is she still married to? Donovan is the answer to all three questions.

Donovan Sunshine Superman

Here is the link to the Guardian piece: Guardian

And perhaps you’d like to listen again and follow along?

Sunshine came softly a-through my a-window today

Could’ve tripped out easy a-but I’ve a-changed my ways

It’ll take time, I know it but in a while You’re gonna be mine,

I know it, we’ll do it in style ‘Cause I made my mind up you’re going to be mine

I’ll tell you right now Any trick in the book a-now, baby, all that I can find

Everybody’s hustlin’ a-just to have a little scene

When I say we’ll be cool, I think that you know what I mean

We stood on a beach at sunset, do you remember when?

I know a beach where, baby, a-it never ends

When you’ve made your mind up forever to be mine

Hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm I’ll pick up your hand and slowly blow your little mind

‘Cause I made my mind up you’re going to be mine

I’ll tell you right now Any trick in the book a-now, baby, that I can find

Superman or Green Lantern ain’t got a-nothin’ on me

I can make like a turtle and dive for your pearls in the sea, yep

A-you you you can just sit there while thinking on your velvet throne

‘Bout all the rainbows a-you can a-have for your own

When you’ve made your mind up, forever to be mine

Hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm I’ll pick up your hand and slowly blow your little mind

When you’ve made your mind up, forever to be mine I’ll pick up your hand,

I’ll pick up your hand

Donovan Sunshine Superman

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