At a Halloween party in Norman, Oklahoma, way way, way back, in 1966, John Baker met Michael McConnell and a spark ignited. As the two gay men talked, McConnell told of his belief that gay people should not, and one day would not, be treated like second class citizens. Baker was less sure about that idea, so radical for its time, until he was fired from his job at Tinker Air Force base for being gay.
Suddenly he knew all to well what Michael was talking about, and a year later, John Baker proposed to Michael McConnell. McConnell said 'Yes' with one condition: that someday they would legally marry.
Imagine that, back in 1967, two men thinking the day might come when they could actually have a legal wedding.
Soon the couple relocated to Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota, McConnell to take a job at its library and Baker to study law. And they decided to head down to city Hall and apply for a marriage license. Naturally, they were denied.
The Hennepin County attorney blocked their bid for a marriage license, and that decision was upheld by both a district judge and d by the state Supreme Court with that same old reasoning we've all heard time and again:
"The institution of marriage as a union of man and woman, uniquely involving the procreation and rearing of children within a family, is as old as the Book of Genesis."
When asked why he pursued the idea of two men marrying all the way to the Supreme Court, Jack Baker simply said, "The love of my life insisted on it."
In 1993, nearly twenty years after the after the Supreme Court dismissed Baker v. Nelson, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that gay men and women had a constitutional right to marry and suddenly Michael McConnell's radical thought seemed somehow likely.
It's taken another twenty years, with marriage equality fights won, and lost, and won, across the country, but now the Supreme Court is revisiting the idea that Baker and McConnell prosed decades ago. Last week, the justices decided to take a potentially historic look at gay marriage by agreeing to hear two cases that challenge official discrimination against gay Americans either by forbidding them from marrying or denying those who can marry legally the right to obtain federal benefits that are available to heterosexual married couples.
Forty years after they appeared in a "Look" magazine spread and on "The Phil Donahue Show" to speak about their legal case, Baker and McConnell have retreated from public life. Now in their 70s, and retired, they have withdrawn from open activism, and are said to be working on a book about their lives.
And, if that book is published, there will be one interesting story to read.
See, about a year-and-a-half after Hennepin County rejected their application for a marriage license, Baker and McConnell traveled to southern Minnesota's Blue Earth County, where they obtained a marriage license on which Baker was listed with an altered, gender-neutral name.
That license was later challenged in court but was never explicitly invalidated by a judge. Jack Baker recently predicted on his blog that marriage equality might become legal in Minnesota soon, but said he and Michael don't see a need to make it official:
"We are legally married," John Baker says.
Still, the idea that the federal government might one day soon recognize same-sex couples in the same ways they do heterosexual couples, might just sway the two men into saying 'I do' again.
Forty years after they said it the first time.