Judge rules sodomy statute violates state Constitution, privacy

Maggie Hessel-Mial

Citing the individual’s right to privacy, state District Court Judge Delila Pierce announced her decision Monday to strike down the prohibition of oral and anal sex in Minnesota.

The Minnesota Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit claiming privacy rights guaranteed under the state Constitution were violated by the sodomy law. The court agreed and declared the law unconstitutional.

“This (statute) has been on the books since Minnesota was a territory,” said MCLU legal counsel Teresa Nelson. “Why would we want to invite the state into our bedrooms now?”

MCLU members believed this law was enforced disproportionately against gay and lesbian couples, Nelson said.

“Now the government has one less tool to use in harassing gays and lesbians,” she said.

In the past, those charged and convicted faced up to 90 days in jail and a $3000 fine, Nelson said.

The case involved no testimony, only written arguments from both sides.

Minnesota was the 37th state to repeal similar laws, said case attorney Tim Branson.

“Sexual activity of adults is off limits by regulation of the state,” he said.

Many Minnesotans, however, expressed concern with the elimination of the law.

“We think that (this law) is an important standard to set in society,” said Minnesota Family Council President Tom Prichard. “Society has an interest in encouraging laws that discourage sex before marriage.”

Prichard said he feared deeming the law unconstitutional might not have been the best way to handle this issue.

“Laws are a reflection of where society’s at,” he said. “It defies logic to think that our founders would create a law that the state Constitution would be in violation against.”

Health education might not be impacted much by the revocation of a Minnesota sodomy law, said David Dorman, a Boyton health educator.

“Surveys have shown that many University students are having oral and anal sex despite the law,” he said. “We will still be discussing preventive strategies against sexually transmitted diseases and talking about abstinence.”

Maggie Hessel-Mial welcomes comments at [email protected]