Last edited: February 14, 2005

Hennepin County Judge Finds Sodomy Law Unconstitutional

Star Tribune, May 21, 2001

By Pam Louwagie 

Civil libertarians today hailed a Hennepin County District Court ruling that declared unconstitutional a Minnesota law banning sodomy because it violated rights to privacy.

Teresa Nelson, legal counsel for the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union (MCLU), said the group had been working at repealing this law for 20 years.

"At its core this case is about keeping the government out of our most private lives," Nelson said today at a news conference.

In June, the MCLU began a lawsuit challenging the law, which considered anal and oral sex unlawful even when it’s private and between consenting adults. The statute, which has been on the books since the 19th century, calls for a penalty of a year in prison and a $3,000 fine.

The law put lawyers, renters and others who take oaths to be lawful, in a position of possibly violating it, some at today’s news conference said.

"Proof of what’s going on in your bedroom is not the only issue," MCLU President Mike Goldner said.

The ruling issued Thursday by District Judge Delila Pierce doesn’t affect such things as prostitution or rape. It applies to noncommercial, private acts.

Minnesota is the 35th state to act against such laws, supporters of the suit said.

"It’s a happy day that Minnesota is catching up," said Joni Thome, president of the Minnesota Lavender Bar Association, which is for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender lawyers and law students. "All Minnesotans should be happy because now what we deem to be private is actually private."

MCLU officials said they were disappointed that it took this long in Minnesota, which is normally known as a leader in privacy issues.

— Pam Louwagie is at

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