Last edited: February 14, 2005


MCLU Suing to Overturn Minnesota’s Sodomy Law

Associated Press, June 22, 2000

By Steve Karnowski

A state law that makes oral and anal sex a crime is unconstitutional and should be thrown out, the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union claimed in a lawsuit filed Thursday.

The MCLU and the Lesbian and Gay Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union are challenging Minnesota’s sodomy statute, saying the law violates the right of privacy guaranteed by the state constitution.

The law — which applies to all consenting adults, even married couples — makes violations punishable by up to a year in prison and up to $3,000 in fines.

"Most Minnesotans don’t realize that the sodomy statute applies to them," said Teresa Nelson, an MCLU attorney. "But, in fact, this statute criminalizies all oral and anal sex, even when it’s entirely private and noncommercial conduct between consenting adults. People of all backgrounds and from across the ideological spectrum ought to be alarmed by this law. It invites the state into every bedroom in Minnesota."

The class-action lawsuit, filed in Hennepin County, asks the court to declare the statute void and prevent the state from enforcing it.

The plaintiffs include two married heterosexuals who say they risk prosecution, a lesbian who fears eviction because her lease prohibits illegal activity, a gay law student who fears being disbarred, a divorced gay man who fears losing his right to visit his children, and a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered lawyers and law students.

According to the MCLU, 18 states still have sodomy statutes, down from all 50 in 1961. In five of those states, the law applies only to homosexuals. Legislatures have repealed sodomy laws in 25 states, while courts have overturned them in others. In one of the most recent cases, an appeals court in Texas voided that state’s sodomy law two weeks ago.

Attorney General Mike Hatch was out of state and unavailable for comment on the lawsuit, said his spokeswoman, Leslie Sandberg.

"We’ve received the complaint and are reviewing it," she said.

Tom Prichard, executive director of the Minnesota Family Council, which has helped fight off attempts to repeal the law at the Legislature, said the law should stay on the books, and he criticized the MCLU for filing the lawsuit.

"They’re trying to do an end run by getting the courts to strike it down instead of going through the appropriate channel, which is the Legislature," Prichard said.

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