2003 was the year when Massachusetts, United States, decided to recognize marriage equality. In 2015, it was the whole USA.
But now, due to a strange case, the Social Security Administraton has recognized a marriage between two men that happened decades prior.
Back in 1970, Richard John “Jack” Baker applied for a marriage license with Michael McConnell in Hennepin County, Minnesota, but they were turned down, and their claim was eventually dismissed by the Minnesota Supreme Court.
But before the ruling at Minnesota, the couple tried to reapply their marriage license in Blue Earth County, Minnesota. Surprisingly, they successfully received a license, and they got married with a Methodist minister officiating them in a quiet wedding ceremony in a friend’s home on September 3, 1971.
Apparently, the clerk in Blue Earth County who handled their marriage certificate did not immediately realize that the marriage certificate was actually for two men.
The certificate arrived back to the state, and the county’s attorney just instructed the clerk to not record it. But the marriage wasn’t asked to be dissolved; instead, the state simply acted as if the marriage was not valid.
However, Baker and McConnel ever since insisted that their marriage was legal, because they had a legitimate marriage certificate, complete with the signatures of appropriate witnesses as well as 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,” Bake said, through a press release.
The couple are still together today, and as they went into their 70s, they approached the state to confirm their Social Security benefits as a couple. During the process, they requested to confirm the legality of their marriage, once and for all.
And finally, 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,” stated Baker. “Over the years, many legal scholars have reviewed our case and concluded that the law was on our side.”
Now, it was the federal government’s turn to respond.
Finally, and just two days after Valentine’s Day 2019, the Social Security Administration sent the couple a letter with good news: their 1971 marriage is now being recognized as a legal one, and that they were indeed entitled to the 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.”