Last edited: February 22, 2005

Twin Cities Gay Rights Groups Hail Decision; Conservatives Express Dismay

Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 26, 2003
425 Portland Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55408
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By Randy Furst and Pam Louwagie, Star Tribune

Gay rights supporters celebrated and conservative groups expressed dismay at the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn the Texas antisodomy law.

“I think it is an unbelievably bad decision,” said Tom Prichard, president of the Minnesota Family Council. “It is a breath-taking leap in judicial activism. It’s kind of the Roe versus Wade of sexual expression. They have codified the sexual revolution.”

On the other side, however, there was cheering.

“I think it is a wonderful step forward in cementing an environment of justice for gay and lesbian people in society,” said Emily Eastwood, head of the Reconciling in Christ Program of Lutherans Concerned/ North America. The program promotes participation of people of different sexual orientations and gender identity in the Lutheran church.

Minnesota law settled

In Minnesota, the ruling should quell any questions about the state’s antisodomy law, legal experts said.

On the books since the 19th century, the law made oral and anal sex illegal in Minnesota, including when it was private and between consenting adults.

Hennepin County District Judge Delila Pierce struck down the state statute in 2001, saying it violated privacy rights under the state Constitution. Later, she gave her ruling class-action status.

The attorney general’s office declined to appeal. Last year, a federal judge dismissed another challenge to the state law, saying Pierce’s ruling also applied in northern Minnesota.

Some had questioned whether the Hennepin ruling had a statewide effect. Leslie Sandberg, spokeswoman for Attorney General Mike Hatch, said Thursday’s high court ruling “removes all doubt.”

Minnesota in 2000 had about 9,100 same-sex couples living together, according to the census. About 2,600 of those couples lived in Minneapolis, giving the city the fifth highest percentage of same-sex households among cities with more than 250,000 people.

As events connected with the annual gay pride celebration in the Twin Cities get under way today, the buzz in the gay community is that the decision would prompt additional gay rights efforts.

Monica Meyer, public policy director of Outfront Minnesota, an advocacy group, said the decision might advance efforts of gay couples to file joint tax returns, adopt children and eventually have legal marriages.

Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, said he was ecstatic. Besides advancing full citizenship for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community, he said, he has been married in a “nonlegal sense” to his partner for 15 years, and “it definitely brings us closer to full recognition.”

But Sen. Tom Neuville, R-Northfield, said: “I’m disappointed in the decision. . . . The concern that I have is [that] the courts continue to create rights that aren’t enumerated in the Constitution, and in the process they take away the voice of the people through the legislative bodies.”

Said State Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove: “I think the decision reflects a continued downward spiral away from traditional values that have created a strong foundation for families.”

Prichard said he was concerned the ruling would open the door to allowing adult incest and prostitution.

However, Paul David Stanko, minister of music and administrator at the All God’s Children Metropolitan Community Church, disagreed.

The church is predominantly GLBT. Stanko said same-sex relationships have nothing to do with prostitution, incest, child pornography “or any of the other lies that other groups may lead you to believe exist.”

The sodomy decision, he said, would no more encourage “hurtful acts” than any other equal rights decision, including court rulings that struck down segregation.

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