McConnell and Baker receive ALA GLBTRT Award for Political Activism
For Immediate Release
John L. Amundsen
Program Officer, Outreach and Communications
ALA Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services
CHICAGO — Michael McConnell and Jack Baker have been named the inaugural recipients of the American Library Association’s (ALA) Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Round Table (GLBTRT) Award for Political Activism. The award will be presented on Monday, June 27, 2016 during the Stonewall Book Awards program at the ALA Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida.
The GLBTRT Award for Political Activism seeks to recognize librarians and library related organizations who have made outstanding contributions in the area of GLBT activism. The award consists of a certificate and $1,000.
“For their visionary efforts to achieve marriage equality and for their outstanding leadership in the struggle for gay rights the GLBTRT Executive Board is pleased to award Michael McConnell and Jack Baker the GLBTRT Award for Political Activism,” said GLBTRT Chair Peter Coyl.
Already well-known in the Midwest as gay rights activists, McConnell and Baker became pioneers in the struggle for same sex marriage. In 1970, they applied for a marriage license in Hennepin County, Minnesota - the first same sex couple to apply for a marriage license. After county officials denied their application, the couple mounted a precedent-setting lawsuit (Baker v. Nelson) that reached the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2015, when the Court ruled that same sex couples have a fundamental right to marry, the ruling included this note: "Baker v. Nelson must be and now is overruled."
The couple managed to marry in 1971 with a state-issued license from Blue Earth County, Minnesota, in a ceremony officiated by a Methodist minister. They are recognized as the first legally-married same sex couple in the United States.
As a result of the publicity generated by the couple's activism, the University of Minnesota's Board of Regents rescinded McConnell’s job offer with the University of Minnesota Libraries in 1970. Despite this setback, McConnell pursued his commitment to library work. Seeking to restart his career in 1973, he accepted an entry-level position with the Hennepin County Library (HCL) system. After an outstanding 37 years of service, he retired in 2010 as a coordinating librarian and member of the HCL administrative team.
McConnell and Baker are also recognized for their efforts to improve the life of the GLBT community on and off campus. As a law student at University of Minnesota, Baker helped to establish one of the first gay student organizations on the nation's campuses and served as that organization's first president. He then won two terms as student body president - the first openly gay student body president in the country. McConnell made similar contributions as a founding member of Gay House. Established in Minneapolis in 1971, Gay House was the seed of one of the nation's first social service networks specifically serving the GLBT community.
“McConnell and Baker’s activism opened doors,” said ALA President Sari Feldman. “Despite tremendous adversity, they both worked tirelessly to advocate for GLBT equality, and their actions helped to change the working environment for GLBT library workers, as well as shape the national conversation to the present and beyond.”
McConnell and Baker will share their remarkable history during a program at the ALA Annual Conference. They are the co-authors of the newly-released memoir, “The Wedding Heard ’Round the World: America’s First Gay Marriage,” published in 2016 by the University of Minnesota Press.
To learn more, please visit www.ala.org/glbtrt.
The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association is the oldest professional association for GLBT people in the United States. It is committed to serving the information needs of the GLBT professional library community and information and access needs of individuals at large. It is home to GLBT Book Month(tm), a nationwide celebration every June and the Stonewall Book Award, the oldest award honoring GLBT books. GLBTRT is committed to encouraging and supporting the free and necessary access to all information, as reflected by the missions of the American Library Association and democratic institutions.