Documenting a Step Toward Marriage Equality

In 1970, working for LOOK magazine, Charlotte Brooks traveled to Minnesota to photograph Michael McConnell and Jack Baker for a profile on committed same-sex relationships. Activists for gay rights, McConnell and Baker can be seen in these photographs enjoying domestic life, relaxing in a park, attending church, socializing with friends, and carrying signs and leaflets in support of equality.

Jack Baker and Michael McConnell at home, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo by Charlotte Brooks, 1970. //www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/ppmsca.52127/

Jack Baker and Michael McConnell at home, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo by Charlotte Brooks, 1970. //www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/ppmsca.52127/

Jack Baker and Michael McConnell. Photo by Charlotte Brooks, 1970. //www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/ppmscd.00422/

Jack Baker and Michael McConnell. Photo by Charlotte Brooks, 1970. //www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/ppmscd.00422/

Jack Baker and Michael McConnell at church. Photo by Charlotte Brooks, 1970. //www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/ds.09634/

Jack Baker and Michael McConnell at church. Photo by Charlotte Brooks, 1970. //www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/ds.09634/

LOOK magazine published the article that included six of the images from Brooks’s assignment in a special issue on “The American Family” in January of 1971. Later that year, McConnell and Baker successfully applied for a marriage license after legally changing Baker’s first name to “Pat Lyn,” a gender-neutral alternative to his birth name. With a Methodist minister officiating, McConnell and Baker became the first legally married same-sex couple in the United States, although their marriage was not officially recognized by the federal government until last year — several years after the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges ruling made same-sex marriage legal in the United States.

The following contact sheet shows images of McConnell and Baker holding hands, and of the two holding signs for FREE, or Fight Repression of Erotic Expression, a student group that Baker served as president. This is one of thirty-nine contact sheets comprising Brooks’s assignment (referred to as a “job”) that researchers can view in the Prints & Photographs Reading Room, together offering a glimpse into the lives of two pioneering activists for marriage equality.

Male couples. Photos in contact sheet by Charlotte Brooks, 1970. //www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/ppmsca.41875/

Male couples. Photos in contact sheet by Charlotte Brooks, 1970. //www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/ppmsca.41875/

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