Sodomy Law: Get Rid of Antiquated Rule
Tribune, May 30, 2001
425 Portland Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55408
A Hennepin County judge recently did what the Minnesota Legislature should
have done long ago: District Judge Delila Pierce ruled that Minnesotas
sodomy law is unconstitutional because it violates the very basic right to
The judge deserves credit for reaffirming that sexual behavior is strictly
between the individuals involved. What could be more private than the way two
people choose to express intimacy? Minnesota Civil Liberties Union attorneys
also merit praise for pursuing the case and forcing the issue. As a result of
naming the state, the governor and attorney general as defendants, top
Minnesota leaders must review the courts decision.
A Minnesota law enacted more than a century ago makes oral and anal sex
illegal even when performed privately and between consenting adults. Here
in our progressive, tolerant area, many forms of having sex are punishable by
a year in jail and a $3,000 fine.
Thats outrageous. This state has a reputation for being a national
leader on privacy issues. Yet it has remained a throwback on this one, failing
to come to terms with contemporary community standards. Minnesota is now one
of only 15 states that still cling to some form of antisodomy statute. Half of
the nations state legislatures have repealed the antiquated laws since
1961, fully understanding that the state has no business regulating what
happens in American bedrooms.
In addition to being unconstitutional, the law should be rescinded because
it has been unfairly enforced. Sodomy ordinances have been selectively used to
discriminate. It is the kind of legal tool that bigots can pull out, dust off
and use to harass people because of their sexual orientation or preferences.
Most often the ridiculous law has been used against gays and lesbians.
During the 1970s and 80s, city police used it when they conducted raids on
downtown gay bath houses. Other illegal activities may have occurred in those
places, but sodomy laws were used to pile on charges or as the sole
violation when prostitution or lewd conduct allegations wouldnt stick.
Heterosexuals can be victims of this law too, as plaintiffs in the lawsuit
demonstrate. One is a married Minneapolis educator who could lose his license
to teach if he were convicted on a sodomy charge. Another person named in the
suit is a quadriplegic married man whose only forms of sexual intimacy are
illegal under current law.
Unfortunately, Pierces ruling applies only to the eight plaintiffs in
the case. Every Minnesotan deserves the same privacy protection. Now that a
local court has spoken, Minnesota lawmakers should gather the gumption to
repeal the states sodomy law once and for all.
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