NOTHING TO HIDE
MIKE MCCONNELL MET JACK BAKER on a blind date at a Halloween party in an Oklahoma barn in 1966 when they were 24-year-old graduate students. Distinctly unimpressed, McConnell scolded the matchmaker: "Don't ever fix me up again! I really don't like him." The matchmaker confidently responded, "You don't know what you're talking about. You two were destined for one another." McConnell admits, "He was right. It was true. I fell in love." On Baker's twenty-fifth birthday, the two young men became "betrothed," as they put it, in a private ceremony.
If Frank Kameny is the visionary Martin Luther King Jr. of the gay‐ rights movement, James Michael "Mike" McConnell and Richard John "Jack" Baker together are its Rosa Parks. Refusing to let their relationship be relegated to the back of the bus, they eventually seized a privilege that the dominant majority assumed was restricted, in the natural order of things, to itself: legal matrimony. As rapidly growing numbers of gay people gained self-respect and moved out from the shadows, the nature of the homosexual cases reaching the Supreme Court gradually changed. McConnell and Baker brought the court the first gay cases that fundamentally were about love, not sex.
The couple's first introduction to gay liberation was through Frank Kameny and fellow gay-rights pioneer Barbara Gittings. "That's what lit our fires of pride," McConnell says, recalling that he and Baker met the activists while living in Kansas City, Missouri, in the late 1960s. "These fine people were willing to say, 'Look, I'm as good as anybody else.' That's all I needed to hear."