Its Time to Remove Harmful Relic Called Sodomy Law
Minneapolis Star Tribune,
July 3, 2000
425 Portland Ave.
Minneapolis MN 55488
A generation ago, every state in the nation had laws against sodomy instruments
of social prejudice, relics of a time when personal morality and public policy were too
Nowadays they could be considered merely quaint, like vestigial traffic laws about
trolleys and horse-drawn carriages, if only their continued existence caused no harm. But
a law rooted in discrimination, even if unenforced, assaults the spirit of those it brands
For that reason, half the nations state legislatures have repealed their laws
against sodomy since 1961. Courts in another seven states have struck down such statutes
as unconstitutional including the Supreme Court in Georgia, whose attorney general
had defended the law, back in the middle 1980s, all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
This leaves Minnesota among 18 states still holding to the antiquated notion that
governments should make rules about how people make love. Because the penalties it
provides are comparatively steep a $3,000 fine and a year in prison
Minnesotas law often gets embarrassingly prominent mention when the issue is in the
Its in the regional news these days because the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union
has challenged the law on constitutional grounds, making the obvious and common-sense
argument that such prohibitions are a plain affront to personal privacy. This stance is
such a no-brainer that even MCLUs critics have a tough time making an argument for
keeping the law.
The Minnesota Family Council, for example, complains chiefly that the MCLU is trying
for a court victory where legislative lobbying efforts have failed. Indeed, thats
exactly what the lawsuit is aiming for, and its the reason the MCLU deserves praise
for bringing it.
The Legislature has had many chances over the years to repeal this law and has ducked
them with great consistency. Politically speaking, theres much to lose and little to
gain in seeming to stand up for oral or anal sex, or challenging a law that is so rarely
But as the MCLUs lawsuit points out, the law has been used on occasion. It
remains a threat, not just theoretically, to people whose employment or leases or
professional licensing depend upon a blemish-free police record. Though it applies with
equal prudishness to heterosexuals and homosexuals, it also discriminates specifically
against gay men and lesbians, and certain disabled people, who cant avail themselves
of legally permissible sex.
Beyond all that, this law remains an affront to anyone who believes that what a couple
of consenting adults do in the privacy of their home is nobody elses business.
Thats a principle worth going to court for, and the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union
should be commended for trying to do what the Legislature should have done long ago.
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