First gay couple to receive marriage licence consider lawsuit

Marriage|January 16th 2016

A same sex couple living in the US state of Minnesota are considering a federal lawsuit against the county in which they live.

Michael McConnell and Jack Baker were one of the very first same sex couples in the United States to be given a marriage licence. They received this as long ago as 1971 from Blue Earth County in the south of the state, but only after Jack adopted the gender neutral name ‘Pat’. They were accepted after nearby Hennepin County turned them down.

The validity of their marriage has been repeatedly questioned the subsequent 45 years, even reaching the Supreme Court in the 1970s.

After the same sex nature of their union came to light Blue Earth County never formally recorded the marriage. Decades later the county attorney has now written to the ageing couple to declare their marriage “legally defective” and invalid, thereby threatening their rights to spousal social security and disability benefits.

Mr McConnell insisted:

“I got married on September 3, 1971, and nobody can change that and  it was all done legally under the laws that were enforced at that time in Minnesota.”

He wanted, he added, to ensure that “my social security benefits would be available to Jack if something happened to me and vice versa.”

The couple have launched an appeal with the US Social Security Administration and they are now exploring the possibility of a federal lawsuit against Blue Earth County.

Mr Baker explained:

“We are still fighting we may end up in federal court.”

The couple have ruled out the possibility of marrying again to secure their benefits because doing so would constitute an admission that their 1971 marriage was invalid, they claim.

Photo of Blue Earth County courthouse by GreenLight Designs (Jordan Green) via Flickr

Author: Stowe Family Law

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