Marriage Equality USA

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Lawsuits - Resolved

In re: the estate of Thomas Proehl

Case #: 27-PA-PR-12-260
Date Filed: 27 February 2012
Ruling Date: 1 August 2012


  • On 27 February 2012, surviving spouse James Morrison petitioned the court for permission to inherit his deceased husband’s estate.
  • 1 August 2012, a judge ruled that same-gender couples legally married elsewhere can inherit each other’s property in MN, even though MN itself did not recognize same-gender marriages. In 2012 MN law prohibited same-gender couples from having contractual rights, but not statutory (legal, economic, employment, health care, spouse privilege, confidential marriage communication, inheritance) rights.
Douglas Benson, et al. v. Hennepin County Local Registrar Jill Alverson, et al.

Case #: A11-08111
Date Filed: 7 May 2010
Ruling Date:


  • In June 2010, three same-gender couples filed suit challenging the MN Defense-of-Marriage Act.
  • 8 March 2011, Judge Mary S. DuFrense, of the Fourth Judicial District Court of Hennepin County, dismissed the suit.
  • 10 July 2011, the couples appealed.
  • 23 January 2012, the Minnesota Court of Appeals overturned the dismissal, and ordered a full trial back in district court.
  • 24 February 2012, Alverson petitioned the Supreme Court of Minnesota for review.
  • In February 2013, both parties agreed to put the proceedings on hold until at least 1 June 2013
  • 14 May 2013, civil marriage equality became legal at the state level in Minnesota and rendered this case moot.
Baker v. Nelson – The first same-sex marriage equality case to be tried in the United States.

Case #: 191 N.W.2d 185, 185-86 (Minn. 1971)
Date Filed: Unable to locate original filing date.
Ruling Date: Trial Court15 October 1971, Supreme Court of MN 15 October 1971, SCOTUS 10 October 1972


  • 18 May 1970, two University of Minnesota gay student activists, Richard Baker and James Michael McConnell, applied for a marriage license in Minneapolis. The clerk of the Hennepin County District Court, Gerald Nelson, denied the request on the sole ground that the two were of the same sex.
  • The couple filed suit.
  • The trial court, quashing an alternative writ of mandamus, ruled that respondent was not required to issue a marriage license to petitioners and specifically directed that a marriage license not be issued to them.
  • In early August 1971, McConnell legally adopted Baker in a Hennepin County court. When he approved the request, Judge Lindsay Arthur said, "regardless of popular conception, adoption is not limited to children". The decree changed Baker's legal name to Pat Lynn McConnell, though he continued to use the name Jack Baker.
  • In mid-August 1971, Baker and McConnell took up residence with a friend in Blue Earth County and applied to the District Court in Mankato for a license to marry, with Jack Baker using the gender-neutral name Pat Lynn McConnell. The license was granted.
  • 3 September 1971, Rev. Roger Lynn, a Methodist minister, solemnized their marriage. It was the first lawful same-sex marriage in the United States.
  • The Hennepin County Attorney argued the license was invalid because it failed to meet the law's requirement that a license be issued in the bride's county of residence. He convened a grand jury, which "studied the legality of the marriage but found the question not worth pursuing."
  • Back to the case original legal case, on 15 October 1971, the Supreme Court of Minnesotaaffirmed the trial court’s decision and ruled that “Minn. St. c. 517 does not authorize marriage between persons of the same sex and that such marriages are accordingly prohibited.” The Court further held “that Minn. St. c. 517 does not offend the First, Eighth, Ninth, or Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.”
  • Baker and McConnell appealed the Minnesota court's decision to the Supreme Court of the United States, claiming that the Minnesota marriage statutes implicated three rights: they abridged their fundamental right to marry under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; discriminated based on gender, contrary to the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; and deprived them of privacy rights flowing from the Ninth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
  • 10 October 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a one-sentence order stating, "The appeal is dismissed for want of a substantial federal question." Since this case came to SCOTUS through mandatory appellate review, the summary dismissal was a decision on the merits of the case.
  • As binding precedent, the Baker decision prevents lower courts from coming to a contrary conclusion when presented with the precise issue the Court necessarily adjudicated in dismissing the case.
  • As of December 2012, the original plaintiffs in Baker v. Nelson, Jack Baker and Michael McConnell, were living happily as a married couple in retirement in Minneapolis.

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