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The Wedding Heard ’Round the World

America’s First Gay Marriage

2016
Author:

Michael McConnell
With Jack Baker
As Told to Gail Langer Karwoski

The Wedding Heard ’Round the World

Forty-four years after two men married in a legal ceremony in Minnesota, the Supreme Court has decided the question first raised by these gay pioneers

On September 3, 1971, Michael McConnell and Jack Baker exchanged vows in the first legal same-sex wedding in the United States. Their remarkable story is told here for the first time, on the heels of the Supreme Court's decision to make love the law of the land. Their long campaign for marriage equality and insistence on equal rights for all citizens is a model for advocates of social justice and an inspiration for everyone who struggles for acceptance in a less-than-equal world.

A beautiful, well-written love story that is heartrending and ultimately heartwarming. Thank you, Michael and Jack, for opening the doors for the rest of us, for your integrity, for proving, yes: Love wins!

Robert Alexander, New York Times bestselling author of The Kitchen Boy

On September 3, 1971, Michael McConnell and Jack Baker exchanged vows in the first legal same-sex wedding in the United States. Their remarkable story is told here for the first time—a unique account of the passion and energy of the gay liberation movement in the sixties and seventies. 
 
At the dawn of the modern gay movement (at the time of New York’s Stonewall riots and San Francisco’s emerging political activism), these two young men insisted on making their commitment a legal reality. They were already crusaders for gay rights: Jack had twice been elected the University of Minnesota’s student president—the first openly gay university student president in the country, an election reported by Walter Cronkite on network TV news. They were featured in Look magazine’s special issue about the American family and received letters of support from around the world.
 
The couple navigated complex procedures to obtain a state-issued marriage license. Their ceremony was conducted by a Methodist minister in a friend’s tiny Minneapolis apartment. Wearing matching white pantsuits, exchanging custom-designed rings, and sharing a tiered wedding cake, Michael and Jack celebrated their historic marriage. After reciting their vows, they sealed their promise to love and honor each other with a kiss and a signed marriage certificate.
 
Repercussions were immediate: Michael’s job offer at the University of Minnesota was rescinded, leading him to wage a battle against job discrimination with the help of the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union. The couple eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court with two precedent-setting cases. 
 
Michael and Jack have retired from the public spotlight, but after four decades their marriage is still their joy and comfort. Living quietly in a Minneapolis bungalow, they exemplify a contemporary version of the American dream. Only now, with marriage equality in the headlines and the Supreme Court decision to make love the law of the land, are they willing to tell the entire story of their groundbreaking experiences. TIME magazine listed the twenty-five most influential marriages of all time and included Michael and Jack, and they were recently profiled in a cover story in the Sunday New York Times. Their long campaign for marriage equality and insistence on equal rights for all citizens is a model for advocates of social justice and an inspiration for everyone who struggles for acceptance in a less-than-equal world.

The Wedding Heard ’Round the World

Michael McConnell and Jack Baker are America’s first legally married gay couple. In 2010, Michael retired from the Hennepin County Library and Jack retired from his careers in law and engineering. They live in Minneapolis.

Gail Langer Karwoski is an author and educator based in Athens, Georgia. She met Michael McConnell and Jack Baker in 1972, the year after they were married. She is the author of many books for young readers, most recently When Hurricane Katrina Hit Home.

The Wedding Heard ’Round the World

A beautiful, well-written love story that is heartrending and ultimately heartwarming. Thank you, Michael and Jack, for opening the doors for the rest of us, for your integrity, for proving, yes: Love wins!

Robert Alexander, New York Times bestselling author of The Kitchen Boy

In The Wedding Heard ’Round the World, chronicler Gail Langer Karwoski has fashioned a wonderfully compelling told-to story of triumph in the extraordinary lives of Michael McConnell and Jack Baker. A great and memorable read.

Terry Kay, author of To Dance with the White Dog

The only first-person account by the two visionary men who legally married, shortly after the Stonewall riot, and who recognized the importance of marriage in an era when it was disregarded by society and angrily rejected by gay activists.

Thomas Kraemer, founder, Oregon State University Foundation Magnus Hirschfield Fund

One of the great love stories of the past century, and one that jump-started the movement for LGBT marriage equality. The librarian and the law student—Mike and Jack—are all-American pioneers. Anyone interested in gay rights—or in romance—should read this book.

William N. Eskridge Jr., Yale Law School

Please read this very important book about the godfathers of marriage equality, especially if you want to know and appreciate gay history. Their proud, loving lives have always inspired me and my work.

Brian McNaught, author of On Being Gay and Are You Guys Brothers?*

Michael and Jack made history by getting married in 1971—and the letters they received reveal the impact this had on people all over the world. Their story is both universal and unprecedented, offering a riveting look into gay life, love, and activism in the late 1960s and 1970s and the fight for same-sex marriage.

Lisa Vecoli, curator of the Tretter Collection in GLBT Studies, University of Minnesota Libraries

The great appeal of McConnell and Baker’s recommended story is its simple style and the everydayness of their lives. Their appeal is how ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

Library Journal

The Wedding Heard ‘Round the World serves as a gentle reminder that there were couples plotting this victory long, long before a consensus formed around marriage equality.

The New Republic

Michael McConnell’s easy, personable tone will make you feel like your uncle, father, or grandfather is telling the story of their younger years, and what queer life was like back in the day. His persona alone makes this book an instant classic.

Lambda Literary

A sweet story wrapped inside a righteous fight, told with charm and grace. Start The Wedding Heard ‘Round the World – and you’ll have no defense.

Washington Blade

Recommended for all LGBT-related and general history collections, and especially for readers with Minnesota ties and memories. While we can all justifiably laud 2015’s same-sex marriage Final Answer, we should also save a round of applause for Baker and McConnell, who helped forge the way.

American Library Association’s GLBT Round Table

A timely memoir.

Pioneer Press

Easy to read and good for a nice afternoon, The Wedding Heard ‘Round the World is definitely something to put on your must-read list.

The Spectrum

Theirs is a beautiful love story, fit for admission amongst history’s great classics. A tall tale filled with an enduring hunger for truth, long battles for justice against powerful, unwavering foes, filled with great challenges and crushing setbacks... And finally, a final victory for our two loves as they ride off into the sunset.

EDGE Media Network

The Wedding Heard ‘Round the World is a very important addition to GLBT history. It is a fascinating story of love and struggle GLBT rights. It is a true story that reads like a novel. It also shows that the struggle for equal rights for GLBT people is far from over.

Washington Book Review

McConnell’s brief, breezy account of his 1971 marriage to Baker is a reminder that the fight for gay marriage began decades before 2015.

Philadelphia Gay News

The Wedding Heard ’Round the World

Contents
Prologue
1. Dancing
2. Romancing
3. Military Maneuvers
4. Forcing the Air Force to Fly Fair
5. Jack Moves Away
6. FREE
7. The Right to Marry
8. The Right to Work
9. Gay House
10. New Year, Lots of Resolutions
11. Mister President
12. Short Trip to Blue Earth
13. Groom and Groom
14. The Highest Court in the Land
15. Married Life
16. Back Roads
17. Ever After
Acknowledgments
Index