Last edited: February 14, 2005

State Court Strikes Down Minnesota’s Sodomy Law

Associated Press, May 21, 2001

Minnesota’s 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 wasn’t 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 enforced statewide.

"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of the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, says 35 states, including Minnesota, have had their sodomy laws either repealed by legislatures or struck down by the courts.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."

Minnesota’s 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 unsuccessful.

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, there’s 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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