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It's official: America's longest gay marriage wins key recognition

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Chicago (AFP)

America's first gay marriage has officially been fully recognized after a five-decade legal battle.

Michael McConnell and Jack Baker obtained a marriage license in 1971, thanks to an overlooked legal loophole in their state of Minnesota and a bit of trickery.

They are the first known gay couple to legally wed in the country and possibly the world.

But local officials decades ago refused to record their marriage when they found out the two were of the same sex.

It took a court battle that ended only last year for their marriage to be officially recognized.

NBC News reported Thursday that the couple received the last piece of the recognition for which they have fought only three weeks ago: the right to federal retirement benefits as a long-time married couple.

"This just simply proves that the first same-sex marriage ever recorded in the public files of any civil government anywhere in the world happened in Minnesota," Jack McConnell told NBC.

The McConnells -- they share Michael's last name -- exploited the fact that their Midwestern state in the 1970s did not explicitly forbid a marriage between two people of the same sex.

Baker changed his name to the gender ambiguous "Pat Lyn." McConnell did not mention to a clerk that his spouse-to-be was a man.

They were able to obtain a legal marriage license and were wed in a religious ceremony.

Last year, a state judge ruled their marriage was valid -- meaning they did not need to get married again after the US Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage legal in 2015.

The final recognition was from the federal government. The Social Security Administration granted the 77-year-olds retirement benefits as a married couple of 48 years.

They will celebrate their 49th anniversary in September.

The two memorialized their story in the 2016 book "The Wedding Heard 'Round the World: America's First Gay Marriage."

"We are truly proud to be the first," Michael McConnell said on Facebook a year later.

"Our years together have been an amazing journey."

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