Ventura Relents in Minnesota Sodomy Fight
September 5, 2001
MINNEAPOLIS, Mn.The Minnesota Attorney Generals
Office allowed an appeal deadline to lapse on Friday, ruling out any further
challenge to a district court judges ruling that the states sodomy law
is unconstitutional. The decision not to appeal ended one of the more bizarre
chapters in the frequently puzzling administration of Governor Jesse Ventura
and brought to a close a fight that Chuck Samuelson of the Minnesota Civil
Liberties Union said should have been over a long time ago.
In late May, State District Court Judge Delila F. Pierce struck down
Minnesotas law prohibiting oral and anal sex between consenting adults as a
violation of privacy guarantees enshrined in the Minnesota Constitution.
"This is a good day for privacy and fairness in Minnesota," said
Samuelson at the time. His offices and the American Civil Liberties Unions
Lesbian & Gay Rights Project argued the suit on behalf of seven state
residents. "By inviting government into the bedroom, the law was clearly
unconstitutionalwhich is why the court struck it down."
John Wodele issued a statement from Gov. Venturas office that said the
courts decision striking down the states sodomy law "is consistent
with the governors philosophy that there are some things the government has
no business making laws about."
Days later, in what should have been little more than a legal formality,
the ACLU filed a request asking the case be technically certified as a class
action applicable to all Minnesotans. In a surprise move, Ventura decided to
stand in opposition to the motion, a move that brought howls of protest from
Someone finally got the message.
"The sodomy law has been declared unconstitutionaland the state
has no good reason to say that it should be unconstitutional for some people,
but not everyone," said Matt Coles of the ACLU. He called Venturas
actions "callous and absurd."
In July, Judge Delila made plain that she agreed with that assessment by
issuing a certification saying the law and applied to all state residents
without exception. The ACLUs Leslie Cooper told the St. Paul
Pioneer-Press in July, "There can be no question now: Minnesotas
sodomy law has been struck down, and cannot be invoked anywhere in the
state," she said.
In allowing the deadline for the filing of an appeal to lapse, it would
seem the state and the governor finally got the message. Alan Gilbert, chief
deputy attorney general, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune they consulted with
Gov. Jesse Venturas office and decided an appeal would be "lacking in
"We just think that the legal principles of the court are soundly
based," said Gibert.
Thirty-five states, including Minnesota, have now had their sodomy laws
struck down in courts or repealed by their legislatures. At one time, all 50
states in the U.S. had sodomy laws.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force says that Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas
and Missouri are the only states left that have sodomy laws that focus
exclusively on gay people and their sexual activities. Eleven other states
outlaw various sexual acts for straight and gay citizens alike.
Said Coles of the win in Minnesota and the legal efforts to make U.S.
sodomy laws a thing of the past, "One more down, 15 to go."
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