MN Pastor Who Performed 1971 Gay Marriage Reflects Back

Updated: 05/17/2013 5:51 PM By: Naomi Pescovitz

It has been a historic week for same-sex couples in Minnesota who are celebrating now that Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill allowing them to marry as soon as August.

But Minnesota's, and possibly the nation's, first gay marriage may have actually happened decades ago.

On a September day in 1971, Pastor Roger Lynn was quite aware that what he was about to do was big.

"I knew it was and they were very clear about that. It was the first gay marriage in modern history," Lynn said.

Jack Baker and Michael McConnell wanted to get married in Minneapolis. Their original pastor had dropped out, so Pastor Roger Lynn stepped in.

"They loved each other, they had every reason to be married, to live together in a committed relationship, and I was excited and honored to be a part of that," Lynn said.

In 1970 the couple applied for a license in Hennepin County but were turned down in a case that eventually went to the State Supreme Court, where they lost.

In 1971, they applied for a license in Blue Earth County. Jack Baker had changed his name to the gender-neutral name "Pat Lyn."

On a warm day, with license in hand, a wedding was had.

"It was a traditional marriage. With a traditional marriage ceremony," Lynn said.

More than four decades later from his home in Crosslake, Lynn remembers the end of that service moment by moment.

"When I pronounced them husband and husband, and they kissed, I just had this tremendous sense of, wow, this is really different. Kind of, it was shocking to me, because it was different. And really challenged me to come to terms with my own innate homophobia, which I did," Lynn said.

Jack Baker and Michael McConnell are still together in what Lynn calls one of his more successful marriages.

"We should be judged by who we don't love rather than who we love," Lynn said. 

"If anything is going to be stabilizing for the community it's to have long-term committed relationships. And so I didn't see any reason why I shouldn't marry them," Lynn said.

The couple has remained low-profile through this recent gay marriage debate, though Lynn says they are doing very well and were excited to see the law pass.
Jack Baker has a blog called Now is the Time, where he posted the following comment last month: "Working together, Minnesotans used the power of ideas to define the modern gay movement. Michael McConnell and I remain proud to have ignited a dream that continues to transform an entire world."