Last edited: January 27, 2005

Ventura Relents in Minnesota Sodomy Fight

Datalounge, September 5, 2001

MINNEAPOLIS, Mn.—The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office allowed an appeal deadline to lapse on Friday, ruling out any further challenge to a district court judge’s ruling that the state’s sodomy law is unconstitutional. The decision not to appeal ended one of the more bizarre chapters in the frequently puzzling administration of Governor Jesse Ventura and brought to a close a fight that Chuck Samuelson of the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union said should have been over a long time ago.

In late May, State District Court Judge Delila F. Pierce struck down Minnesota’s law prohibiting oral and anal sex between consenting adults as a violation of privacy guarantees enshrined in the Minnesota Constitution.

"This is a good day for privacy and fairness in Minnesota," said Samuelson at the time. His offices and the American Civil Liberties Union’s Lesbian & Gay Rights Project argued the suit on behalf of seven state residents. "By inviting government into the bedroom, the law was clearly unconstitutional—which is why the court struck it down."

John Wodele issued a statement from Gov. Ventura’s office that said the court’s decision striking down the state’s sodomy law "is consistent with the governor’s philosophy that there are some things the government has no business making laws about."

Days later, in what should have been little more than a legal formality, the ACLU filed a request asking the case be technically certified as a class action applicable to all Minnesotans. In a surprise move, Ventura decided to stand in opposition to the motion, a move that brought howls of protest from civil libertarians.

Someone finally got the message.

"The sodomy law has been declared unconstitutional—and the state has no good reason to say that it should be unconstitutional for some people, but not everyone," said Matt Coles of the ACLU. He called Ventura’s actions "callous and absurd."

In July, Judge Delila made plain that she agreed with that assessment by issuing a certification saying the law and applied to all state residents without exception. The ACLU’s Leslie Cooper told the St. Paul Pioneer-Press in July, "There can be no question now: Minnesota’s sodomy law has been struck down, and cannot be invoked anywhere in the state," she said.

In allowing the deadline for the filing of an appeal to lapse, it would seem the state and the governor finally got the message. Alan Gilbert, chief deputy attorney general, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune they consulted with Gov. Jesse Ventura’s office and decided an appeal would be "lacking in merit."

"We just think that the legal principles of the court are soundly based," said Gibert.

Thirty-five states, including Minnesota, have now had their sodomy laws struck down in courts or repealed by their legislatures. At one time, all 50 states in the U.S. had sodomy laws.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force says that Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri are the only states left that have sodomy laws that focus exclusively on gay people and their sexual activities. Eleven other states outlaw various sexual acts for straight and gay citizens alike.

Said Coles of the win in Minnesota and the legal efforts to make U.S. sodomy laws a thing of the past, "One more down, 15 to go."

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