The History of Gay Marriage


1. On May 18, 1970 Jack Baker and James McConnell, two gay men, apply for the first marriage license in the United States, in Minneapolis, MN.  Gerald Nelson, Clerk of Hennepin County District Court denies the request to marry.  In 1971 Jack Baker becomes the first openly gay man elected as President of the University of Minnesota student body.  The couple sues and the case is dismissed in District Court, followed by an appeal to the Minnesota State Supreme Court (dismissed), followed by an appeal to the US Supreme Court  (dismissed “for want of a substantial federal question”).

2. In 1993 the Hawaii Supreme Court declared the states probation against gay marriage to be unconstitutional, in ‘Baehr v. Lewin’.  On November 3, 1996 Hawaii voters enact an amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as between opposite sex couples.

3. In September 13 1996, Lavender Magazine President Stephen Rocheford debates  Mitch Pearlstein, President of the Center of the American Experiment, on Public Television arguing against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and supporting gay marriage as historically inevitable.

4. September 21, 1996, President Bill Clinton signs the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage between opposite sex couples, rushed through the Senate and House of Representatives only two months before the 1996 election.  All Minnesota Representatives (with one exception) and both Senators, including Paul Wellstone, vote for DOMA.  Representative Martin Sabo, 5th District, is the sole “no” vote cast of Minnesota’s Congressional delegation.

5. In 1997, the Minnesota legislature passes a state version of the Federal Defense of Marriage act.

6. On February 19, 2009 a civil unions bill is introduced in the Minnesota House of Representatives.  On March 5, 2009 a gay marriage bill is introduced in the Minnesota Senate.  Both fail.

7. On May 11, 2011 the Minnesota Senate passes a bill (already passed in the House of Representatives) to place a proposed amendment to the state constitution on the ballot that would ban same sex marriage but not civil unions.

8. On May 16, 2011 Senator John Marty introduces “The Marriage and Family Protection Act” which is for total marriage equality in Minnesota.  The Republican control of the legislature at the time ensures that the bill fails.

9 On November 6, 2012, Minnesota voters reject the proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage as between opposite sex couples 52.6% to 47.4%.

10. On November 6, 2012 ten of the DFL State Senators (out of a total of 39 DFL Senators), and seventeen of the DFL State Representatives (out of a total of 73) elected, are in districts where the majority of the people voted “yes” on the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

11. Within 48 hours of the election victory over the proposed constitutional amendment, Governor Mark Dayton, with the incoming Speaker of the House, Senate Majority Leader, and House Majority Leaders elect, all members of the Democratic Farmer Labor Party (DFL), announce that gay marriage is not on their agenda for this legislative session in 2013-14.

12. On November 29, 2012 Lavender Magazine begins a series of articles (thirteen to date) including interviews with Governor Dayton (who refuses to answer our questions) and the legislative leaders about their press conference immediately after the election.  The Governor’s, Speaker’s, and the two Majority Leader’s names, phone numbers and email addresses are printed after each article.  See the entire series of articles with contact information listed on page 56 and on the Lavender website at:

13. On December 11, 2012 in an interview with Lavender Magazine, State Senator John Marty indicates that he will introduce another full marriage equality bill (as he did on May 16, 2011), including the legislative findings that were in his last bill.  He believes that the bill can pass quickly, but doubts that the DFL leadership will allow a vote on it.  Senator Marty says, “There is no excuse for not getting this done”.

14. On February 28, 2013 by State Senator Scott Dibble and State Representative Karen Clark, introduce a bill for marriage equality in the State Legislature.  It is virtually the same bill introduced by Senator John Marty on May 16, 2011.

15. On March 12, 2013 committee hearings are held in both the State House and Senate and are quickly passed to go to their respective Houses of the legislature.

16.  Speaker of the State House Thissen and State Senate Majority Leader Bakk both continue to indicate that there are not enough votes in the DFL caucus to pass the bill for marriage equality.  The DFL controls both the House 73 (to 61 Republicans), and the Senate 39 (to 28 Republicans).  Governor Dayton (DFL) indicates he will sign the bill “if” it reaches his desk for signature.

17. On April 3, 2013 a bipartisan bill for full equality (like in Colorado) civil unions is introduced in the Minnesota legislature.

NOW: If the DFL majority in both houses of the legislature chooses not to pass a marriage equality bill this year, they have the opportunity to pass instead the bipartisan compromise civil union bill, joining moderate Democrats and Republicans, this session in 2013.  The choices are: equality, civil unions, or nothing.


Lavender Magazine

5100 Eden Ave, Suite 107 • Edina, MN 55436 • 612.436.4660

©2023 Lavender Media, Inc.