Court Strikes Down Minnesota Sodomy Law
Ventura Administration May Fight State Impact
ACLU Lesbian & Gay Rights Project,
May 21, 2001
MINNEAPOLIS, MN The American Civil Liberties
Union today hailed a state court ruling that strikes down Minnesotas law
prohibiting oral and anal sex. The ACLU vowed to defend the rulings
statewide impact if Governor Jesse Venturas administration steps in and
tries to limit the ruling to the individual plaintiffs in the case.
"This is a tremendous victory because of what sodomy laws do, but
also because of what they say," said Matt Coles, Director of the ACLU
Lesbian & Gay Rights Project, which along with the ACLUs Minnesota
state affiliate last summer filed Doe, et al. v. Jesse Ventura, et al.,
a lawsuit challenging the sodomy statute. "A societys laws are its
core statement of right and wrong. Sodomy laws, because they are understood to
primarily apply to lesbians and gay men, marginalize gay people and their
pursuit of equal citizenship."
State District Court Judge Delila F. Pierce struck the law down in a ruling
released Friday, saying that the court "declares [the sodomy statute] to
be unconstitutional, as applied to private, consensual, non-commercial acts of
sodomy by consenting adults, because it violates the right of privacy
guaranteed by the Minnesota Constitution."
Minnesotas sodomy law, which has been on the books since the 1800s,
prohibits both oral and anal sex between any adults. Penalties include up to a
year in jail and up to $3,000 in fines. In recent years, the law has been
directly enforced and also has been indirectly used to deny opportunities,
especially to lesbians and gay men in employment, child custody and other
areas. For years, efforts to repeal the law in the state legislature were
unsuccessful. Right-wing groups unsuccessfully tried to alter the law in
recent years, so it would not apply to married, straight couples.
Pierces decision striking down the sodomy law noted that the plaintiffs
in the case "represent a cross section of Minnesotans impacted by the
sodomy statute." The ruling should prevent the law from being enforced or
invoked anywhere in Minnesota, according to Leslie Cooper, the ACLU Lesbian
& Gay Rights Project staff attorney handling the case.
But the ACLU is asking the court to technically certify the case as a
class-action, which Cooper said will leave "absolutely no question"
that the sodomy law cannot be enforced directly or indirectly. At the end of
May, Minnesota Governor Jesse Venturas administration may file legal papers
opposing this, and a hearing would be held June 7.
"Its unfathomable that the Ventura Administration would want the
court to limit this ruling," Cooper said. "The sodomy law has been
declared unconstitutional and the state has no good reason to say that it
should be unconstitutional for some people, but not everyone."
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