State Court Strikes Down Minnesotas Sodomy Law
Press, May 21, 2001
Minnesotas law that prohibits oral sex and other intimacy between
consenting adults is unconstitutional, a state district court judge has ruled.
Judge Delila Pierce said the law, which had been on the books since the
1800s, is unconstitutional because it violates the right of privacy guaranteed
by the Minnesota Constitution.
The Minnesota Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Unions
national Lesbian & Gay Rights Project had filed a lawsuit last summer
challenging the sodomy statute on behalf of a cross section of Minnesotans.
The judge ruled on Friday, but the ruling wasnt announced until Monday.
Although the state court ruling should prevent the sodomy law from being
enforced anywhere in Minnesota, the MnCLU is asking the court to technically
classify the case as a class action. MnCLU attorney Teresa Nelson said that
would leave "absolutely no uncertainty" that the law cannot be
"This is a good day for privacy and fairness in Minnesota," said
Charles Samuelson, executive director of the MnCLU. "By inviting the
government into every bedroom in the state, this law was clearly
unconstitutional which is why the court struck it down."
Gov. Jesse Ventura agreed, his spokesman said.
"Its consistent with the governors philosophy that there are some
things the government has no business making laws about," said John
Wodele. "He sees this as a welcome decision."
Matt Coles, director of the ACLUs Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, says
35 states, including Minnesota, have had their sodomy laws either repealed by
legislatures or struck down by the courts. In 1961, all 50 states had sodomy
laws on the books.
"One more down, 15 to go," Coles said after hearing about the
Minnesota judges decision.
"We absolutely are going to stay with it."
Minnesotas law prohibits oral and anal sex between any adults, including
married couples and disabled people who cannot engage in any other form of
intimacy. Penalties include up to a year in jail and up to $3,000 in fines.
For years, efforts to repeal the law in the state Legislature were
Although sodomy laws are rarely enforced, Coles says they can be used
against proponents of domestic partners ordinances and other issues sought by
gays and lesbians.
"The people who want to keep the (sodomy) law on the book, theres a
method to their madness," Coles said. "The existence of these laws
are used to generally delegitimize gays and lesbians in public debate."
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