The Fight For LGBT Rights In MN: Pride All Year Long

Though the Twin Cities’ weekend-long Pride Festival has drawn to colorful close (check out this photo essay by Tony Nelson if you weren’t able to celebrate the festival in person!), there are still many ways to support and continue the spirit of Pride all year long. Whether you’re interested in attending more events like the Pride Festival, becoming more active in Minnesota’s LGBTQIA community, or simply learning more about social activism, we’ve compiled a handy list of resources for you to celebrate Pride all year long.

While the Twin Cities’ Pride Festival is one of the larger celebrations of Pride in Minnesota, it is certainly not the only Pride event that takes place during the year. In fact, the Twin Cities Pride website has a full calendar of Pride-related events for interested LGBTQIA community members and allies: upcoming events include the Rochester Pridefest on July 21st, the J-Pride Shabbat service on July 28th, and a series of monthly Twin Cities Pride board meetings where you can observe firsthand the efforts Pride leaders are making to further the LGBTQIA community. This calendar is constantly being updated, so be sure to check the Twin Cities Pride website regularly in order to not miss any of the action!

If the Pride Festival inspired you to become more active in the LGBTQIA community as a volunteer, then check out OutFront Minnesota, one of the state’s premier organizations that supports the LGBTQIA community though volunteer services. Whether you’re interested in volunteering as an anti-violence advocate, a lobbying advocate, or an artistic advocate, OutFront has a place for you! The application process to volunteer is easy, and through your work you’ll be able to make a difference in your community all year long.

Activism goes hand-in-hand with education, which is where the our third resource comes in: the Twin Cities Pride Podcast. Each episode is hosted by different members of the LGBTQIA community, discussing a variety of topics within the themes of art, culture, education, and activism. You’ll be sure to learn something new with each new episode, so be sure to check out the podcast on their website in order to catch up on the most recent episodes!

The Fight For LGBT Rights In MN: The Pride Celebration

Summer in the Twin Cities isn’t truly complete until the arrival of the Pride Festival, the weekend-long celebration of LGBT culture that both inspires and honors the LGBT community. The MN Pride Festival is the ideal place to acknowledge the sacrifices and hard work that the LGBT community and its allies have put in over the years, but is also an opportunity to let your hair down and join in on an all-out celebration of life.  It’s a moving and exciting two days full of history, hope, and some pretty amazing costumes.

Though the Twin Cities Pride Festival, now includes a concert, a 5K, a family picnic, and the ever-popular parade, it was not always a place of carefree celebration. In fact, the first Pride parade held in Minnesota wasn’t an all-out street party but a protest. Established as a show of solidarity with the LGBT community in New York City, where the Stonewall Riots had recently occurred, the first MN Pride “parade” involved around fifty people, about half of whom marched while others waited in Loring Park in case they needed to bail the marchers out of jail, should they get arrested.

Despite this fear of arrest, the marchers who participated in the protest bravely made their way down Nicollet Mall, a path that is now traversed by thousands of people each year during the annual Pride Parade. LGBT historian and original marcher Jean-Nickolaus Tretter said in an interview with the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, “I think some people were hoping we’d get arrested” but that the event still resulted in “joy and happiness.” That same joy and happiness is still seen and felt each year when the Pride Festival, a much-anticipated summer event for many people, kicks off in the Twin Cities.

If you want to check out the Pride Festival and all the history, happiness, and hope that it has to offer, make sure to plan ahead and figure out what events you’re interested in attending. More information can be found on the official Pride Festival website, and be sure to keep an eye out for the Minnesota NOW booth.



The Fight for LGBT Rights in MN: Amending the Minnesota Human Rights Act

Much progress has been made in the fight for equal rights for LGBT Minnesotans, particularly in the last 25 to 30 years. In the 1970’s the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis amended city ordinances to prohibit discrimination against gay men and lesbians. St. Paul’s ordinance was repealed a few years later (and eventually successfully amended again in 1989) and Minneapolis made theirs trans-inclusive in 1975. Though the State of Minnesota had anti-discrimination laws on the books since the 1960s they did not protect LGBT people. It wasn’t until 1993 that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals were guaranteed the same protections as all other Minnesotans. The basic human rights of employment, housing, education, and public services that should be afforded to all could, before this amendment was made, be denied under the law. State Senator Allan Spear and State Representative Karen Clark helped lead the fight to include protections for LGBT Minnesotans in anti-discrimination laws. 

Both members of the LGBT community, Spear and Clark were the first openly gay and lesbian members of the Minnesota legislature. They made waves with their annual attempts to introduce an amendment to the Minnesota Human Rights Act that would protect LGBT individuals. For many years their efforts were thwarted by fellow legislators, but they remained determined to succeed. Even the recommendations of a commission appointed by Governor Rudy Perpich could not sway legislators.

A second commission, appointed by Governor Arne Carlson, toured the state and held listening sessions that included sharing stories about the lived experiences of LGBT Minnesotans. These efforts, along with the grassroots organizing of the Gay and Lesbian Community Action Council (which has evolved into the influential OutFront Minnesota organization) and the Minnesota Alliance for Progressive Action, mobilized a large number of people from different walks of life to support protections for LGBT Minnesotans. Alexa Bradley, who cochaired the grassroots campaign known as “It’s Time Minnesota,” said, “People went all over. We went to rural gay softball leagues, to labor unions o women’s organizations—anyone we could think of that we thought might possibly be allies”.

Legislators began to take notice, and word eventually reached Republican Minority Leader Sen. Dean Johnson, who gave a passionate speech on the floor in support of the amendment. His support cost him his own career in governmental politics; he eventually moved to full-time civil rights work. With the combined efforts of all of these individuals and groups, so many people coming together to fight for the rights of many, the amendment to protect LGBT individuals in Minnesota finally passed in 1993. This was a huge step for minority rights in Minnesota, and set the bar for other states in terms of human rights advancements. Due to the passion and determination of legislators, activists, and volunteers, Minnesota is a safer and more respectful place for all, leaving a legacy that is still wholly visible today.

Celebrating LGBT Pride Month

The month of June in Minnesota is commonly associated with the reappearance of the sun, a whole lot of fun, and more than a few no-wake zones. June is also National LGBT Pride Month, a thirty day-long celebration of LGBT history that was first established to honor the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City. This historic event was a tipping point in the Gay Liberation Movement and led to the establishment of Gay Pride Day. In 2000, President Bill Clinton declared June to be “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month”. This celebration of the struggle for LGBT rights and its successes was expanded to include transgender and bisexual individuals in President Obama’s 2016 Presidential Proclamation, that proclaimed June to be LGBT Pride Month. In honor of LGBT Pride month we’re writing a series of blog posts about LGBT Minnesotans and their awesome activism, starting with the first same-sex couple to get married in Minnesota.

Decades before the Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage in 2015, Jack Baker and Michael McConnell wanted to get married. Baker and McConnell knew they had  their work cut out for them as same-sex relationships were viewed as deeply taboo by many communities in the 1960’s and 70’s. An attempt to apply for a marriage license in Minneapolis in 1970 was denied by Hennepin County and, eventually, by the Supreme Court itself. Instead of working within government regulations set forth for traditional marriages, they would have to outfox the opposition. Thanks to Baker’s education as a lawyer and substantial careful thought by the couple, Baker and McConnell were able to to obtain a marriage license in a series of three steps: McConnell legally adopted Baker in order for them to share legal protections, Baker changed his name to the gender-neutral title of “Pat Lyn McConnell” in order to put the marriage license clerk at ease, and they submitted their marriage application in Blue Earth County, where the adoption and name change were not known. The marriage license went through, and the two were finally wed by a pastor in Minneapolis on September 3rd, 1971.

What does Baker have to say about their expert maneuvering? “‘We outfoxed them,’ he said. ‘That’s what lawyers do: make the law work for them’“.

Baker and McConnell have been married for over forty years, and still live in Minneapolis. They were present when the state legalized same-sex marriage in 2013, and though notoriously private, they have had a huge impact as LGBT activists in the state, their influence ranging from the University of Minnesota to the state legislature itself. When asked if they would remarry now that same-sex marriage is officially legalized in Minnesota, the pair said they would not:  “To reapply now becomes an admission that what we did was not legal, and [we] will never admit that“. 

Well said, gentlemen. Well said.