Last edited: February 14, 2005

Ventura Opposes Sodomy Law But Won’t Stop Legal Challenge

The Advocate, June 8, 2001

Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura thinks the state’s sodomy law is "ridiculous" but will not stop the state’s attorney general from trying to limit the impact of a ruling that struck down the law as unconstitutional, his spokesman said Thursday. "His personal opinion is he thinks this is ridiculous," said spokesman John Wodele. "This is not something consistent with his principles." The decisions regarding the state’s position on the case have been made by Attorney General Mike Hatch. "He’s letting the attorney general make the decision," Wodele said, noting that Hatch is also an elected official and that Ventura is not his boss.

The American Civil Liberties Union criticized Ventura Tuesday, saying his administration is trying to limit the impact of a judge’s decision to overturn the state’s sodomy law as unconstitutional. Judge Deila F. Pierce last month struck down the law, but now lawyers for the state of Minnesota are arguing that the ruling should apply only to the seven people who sued, rather than the general population of the state. Although Ventura does not personally agree with the sodomy law, he understands that it was approved at one point by the state legislature, Wodele said. "Being that he is the governor and this is a law duly passed by the legislature, he does have some responsibility to defend the case," Wodele said. ACLU and state lawyers appeared before Pierce Thursday, but the judge did not make any decisions, an ACLU spokesman said. State lawyers opposed ACLU efforts to get the lawsuit recertified as a class-action suit, ACLU officials said. That formality would make certain that the ruling against the sodomy law would apply to all Minnesota residents. "The sodomy law has been declared unconstitutional, and the state has no good reason to say it should be unconstitutional for some people, but not everyone," said Matt Coles, director of the ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. "It’s a wake-up call that the government of Minnesota is actually asking a court to say the law is unconstitutional for six or seven people, but nobody else."

Ventura was a named defendant in the case because the plaintiffs sued him and the attorney general as part of their lawsuit against the state of Minnesota. Ventura agreed with the judge’s ruling about the sodomy law when it was announced last month. In court papers the state argues that instead of certifying the case as class action, the court should force the ACLU to amend the initial lawsuit to name all local law enforcement entities in the state as defendants. The ACLU is asking for the class-action certification to leave "absolutely no question" that all Minnesota residents are covered by Judge Pierce’s order.

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