Thursday, March 21, 2013

DWQ: times change on gay marriage

When James Michael McConnell and his partner Jack Baker applied for a marriage licence in Minnesota it was attention getting.  It was 1969 and such suggestions were  greeted with derision or indifference.  But times have changed and such distant efforts forgotten, so we are grateful for Linda Greenhouse, the fine Times Supreme Court observer (now at Yale) for digging out the McConnell and Baker saga.  In the aftermath of the "marriage license incident" the men sued, taking it all the way to the Supreme Court which did not take the case.  "DWQ" Harry Blackmun wrote on the petition - "deny for lack of a substantial federal question".
Baker became a lawyer but McConnell's career plans were disrupted when the Regents of the University of Minnesota voided his contract.  That lawsuit too was dismissed.  In McConnell v. Anderson (8th Cir. 1971) the U.S. Court of Appeals wrote:
 [I]t is at once apparent that this is not a case involving mere homosexual propensities on the part of a prospective employee. Neither is it a case in which an applicant is excluded from employment because of a desire clandestinely to pursue homosexual conduct. It is, instead, a case in which something more than remunerative employment is sought; a case in which the applicant seeks employment on his own terms; a case in which the prospective employee demands, as shown both by the allegations of the complaint and by the marriage license incident as well, the right to pursue an activist role in implementing his unconventional ideas concerning the societal status to be accorded homosexuals and, thereby, to foist tacit approval of this socially repugnant concept upon his employer, who is, in this instance, an institution of higher learning.
We know of no constitutional fiat or binding principle of decisional law which requires an employer to accede to such extravagant demands. We are therefore unable fairly to categorize the Board's action here as arbitrary, unreasonable or capricious.
Baker and McConnell - still together and still in Minnesota  - may soon get that marriage license.  I hope they get the first one.

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