LGBT rights in Minnesota

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the U.S. state of Minnesota have the same rights and responsibilities as non-LGBT people. Minnesota became the first U.S. state to outlaw both sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in 1993, protecting LGBT people from discrimination in the fields of employment, housing and public accommodations. In 2013, the state legalized same-sex marriage, after a bill allowing such marriages was passed by the Minnesota Legislature and subsequently signed into law by Governor Mark Dayton. This followed a 2012 ballot initiative, in which voters rejected constitutionally banning same-sex marriage.

StatusLegal since 2001
Gender identityYes, transgender people allowed to change gender
Discrimination protectionsSexual orientation and gender identity protections
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsSame-sex marriage legal since 2013

Minnesota is frequently referred to as one of the United States' most LGBT-friendly states.[1] Though legislation outlawing same-sex sexual activity remains on the books, it has not been enforced since 2001 when the State Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional.

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity

Before the arrival of the Europeans, there were no known legal or social punishments for engaging in homosexual activity. Several Native American tribes recognized individuals who would act, behave and live as the opposite biological sex, nowadays also called "two-spirit". The Dakota people refer to male-bodied individuals who act as female as winkta. They are ikwekaazo (literally "men who chose to function as women") among the Ojibwe. Likewise, female-bodied individuals who act and live as male are ininiikaazo (literally "women who choose to function as men").

In 1849, the Minnesota Territory was given Wisconsin's laws, including a ban on heterosexual and homosexual sodomy, which was defined by the common law. When Minnesota drafted its own criminal code in 1851, it kept this prohibition. In 1909, the penalty for sodomy was increased to 20 years' imprisonment, and in 1921, the Minnesota Legislature expanded the definition of sodomy to include fellatio.[2] Beyond the criminal laws, vagrancy laws banned anyone from soliciting for "immoral purposes".

In 1939, a wave of child molestation cases in Saint Paul, led to the enactment of a psychopathic offender law, which included LGBT people alongside rapists and child molesters. Though justified by the need to protect children and others from sexual abuse, those convicted of homosexuality constituted the major part of those imprisoned under it.[2]

In 1967, the penalty for sodomy was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of 1,000 U.S. dollars. An attempt to repeal the sodomy law failed in the Minnesota House of Representatives in 1973 by a vote of 69-46 with 19 abstentions.[2]

In State v. Blom (1984), the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that the criminal ban on sodomy also applied to the act of cunnilingus. A few years later in State v. Gray, the Court rejected the argument that privacy rights applied to sodomy involving prostitution. However, the court did recognize that the State Constitution protected privacy rights, although it stopped short of stating whether or not private, adult, consensual and non-commercial sodomy was covered under the right to privacy.[3]

In Doe et al. v. Ventura et al. (2001), Minneapolis Judge Delilah Pierce ruled that the sodomy law violated the State Constitution when dealing with private, adult, consensual and non-commercial sodomy. The ruling was later certified as being a class action lawsuit and the State did not appeal, thus voiding the law in terms of private, consensual, non-commercial acts of sodomy by consenting adults,[4] two years before Lawrence v. Texas. While void and unenforceable, the sodomy statute remains on the books.[5]

Recognition of same-sex relationships

Same-sex marriage became legal in Minnesota on August 1, 2013. There are also domestic partnership ordinances in 18 cities:

Baker v. Nelson

In 1972, Jack Baker filed a lawsuit against Gerald R. Nelson after being denied a marriage license. The case resulted in the Minnesota Supreme Court ruling that Minnesota law limited marriage to opposite-sex couples and doing so did not violate the State Constitution or the United States Constitution. Although Baker subsequently appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, his appeal was dismissed with a one sentence ruling.

Minnesota Amendment 1

On November 6, 2012, Minnesota voters by a margin of 51.5% to 47.5% with 1% abstention defeated a proposed amendment to the State Constitution that would have banned same-sex marriage in Minnesota.[23]

Same-sex marriage

On February 28, 2013, a bill was introduced in the Minnesota Legislature to legalize same-sex marriage in the state.[24] On May 9, it passed the House of Representatives by 75-59 votes.[25] On May 13, 2013, the Senate passed the bill by a vote of 37-30.[26] Governor Mark Dayton signed the bill into law on May 14; same-sex marriage became legal and recognized in the state on August 1, 2013.[27]

Discrimination protections

In 1989, then Minnesota Governor Rudy Perpich created a state commission to study the prospect of adding sexual orientation to the State's Human Rights Act. The commission proposal was not passed by the Minnesota Legislature, but the subsequent Governor, Arne Carlson, formed a similar committee in 1990.[28]

In 1992, Governor Arne Carlson signed an executive order that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in state employment. In 1993, Minnesota amended its Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of a person's sexual orientation and/or gender identity in housing, insurance, goods and services, contracts, health benefits, hospital visitation rights, and employment.[29][30]

The Human Rights Act uses the following definition with regards to the phrase, "sexual orientation"; "Sexual orientation" means having or being perceived as having an emotional, physical, or sexual attachment to another person without regard to the sex of that person or having or being perceived as having an orientation for such attachment, or having or being perceived as having a self-image or identity not traditionally associated with one's biological maleness or femaleness. "Sexual orientation" does not include a physical or sexual attachment to children by an adult.[30] The law does not apply to religious organizations, youth groups and certain small businesses.[30]

Hate crime law

In 1989, Minnesota laws were expanded to protect people from hate crimes on the basis of a person's sexual orientation. In 1993, sexual orientation was expanded to include the category of gender identity.[31]

Adoption and parenting

Minnesota law allows single LGBT people to petition to adopt children, whilst there is no specific prohibition against joint same-sex couple adoption petitions or stepchild petitions for same-sex couples.[32] The state's only organization solely dedicated to finding families for Minnesota's children, Minnesota Adoption Resource Network, allows same-sex partners to adopt in identical fashion to single people and opposite-sex partners.[33]


On December 17, 1991, in a landmark ruling, the Minnesota Court of Appeals, overturning a lower court ruling in In re Guardianship of Kowalski, awarded guardianship of Sharon Kowalski, brain-damaged in an accident eight years earlier, to her lesbian partner Karen Thompson over the objections of Kowalski's parents.[34]

Anti-gay propaganda law

The 1993 addition of sexual orientation to Minnesota's Human Rights Act also included the insertion of the following quote in Minnesota law, part of which is still in force as of 2019:

363A.27 Construction Of Law.
Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to:
(1) mean the state of Minnesota condones homosexuality or bisexuality or any equivalent lifestyle;
(2) authorize or permit the promotion of homosexuality or bisexuality in education institutions or require the teaching in education institutions of homosexuality or bisexuality as an acceptable lifestyle;
(3) authorize or permit the use of numerical goals or quotas, or other types of affirmative action programs, with respect to homosexuality or bisexuality in the administration or enforcement of the provisions of this chapter; or
(4) authorize the recognition of or the right of marriage between persons of the same sex.

No bill has been introduced to repeal this law as of yet.[35]

Gender identity or expression

Changing legal gender on Minnesota birth certificates and other identity documents does not require undergoing sex reassignment surgery. The applicant for a gender change needs to obtain a certified copy of a court order for gender and name change, and pay the applicable fees.[36]

Since October 2018, Minnesota has allowed an "X" sex descriptor on driver's licences and identity documents.[37]

Conversion therapy

In November 2019, Minneapolis became the first city in Minnesota to ban conversion therapy on minors. The ordinance to this effect was passed unanimously by the Minneapolis City Council. There is no state-wide ban on conversion therapy on minors, due to bills lapsing for years in the Minnesota Legislature.[38]

Living conditions

The Twin Cities metro area has a vibrant LGBT community, with annual pride events, community centers, nightclubs and other venues. Outside of the Twin Cities, annual pride events are held in large cities such as Duluth, Moorhead, St. Cloud and Rochester. In smaller more rural communities, the LGBT community is less visible, and prevailing social attitudes tend to more conservative,[39] though, Pine City is home to one of the state's only rural prides.

A small LGBT group exists in Brainerd and another small group, SOHR (Sexual Orientation and Human Rights), exists for the lakes region.[40]

Public opinion

Public opinion for LGBT anti-discrimination laws in Minnesota
Poll source Date(s)
Margin of
% support % opposition % no opinion
Public Religion Research Institute January 3-December 30, 2018 1,070 ? 70% 22% 8%
Public Religion Research Institute April 5-December 23, 2017 1,412 ? 74% 20% 6%
Public Religion Research Institute April 29, 2015-January 7, 2016 1,496 ? 73% 24% 4%

See also


  1. "The best and worst states for LGBT equality".
  2. "The History of Sodomy Laws in the United States - Minnesota". Retrieved November 2, 2013.
  3. "FindLaw's Supreme Court of Minnesota case and opinions". Findlaw.
  4. "Doe vs. Ventura". Retrieved June 25, 2009.
  5. "609.293 - 2017 Minnesota Statutes".
  6. No takers yet for Duluth domestic partner registry, Minnesota Public Radio.
  7. Duluth oks domestic partner registry, Minnesota Independent.
  8. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 24, 2012. Retrieved May 13, 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link),
  9. Edina passes domestic partner registry,
  10. Maplewood passes domestic partner registry, Golden Valley to vote on Tuesday,
  11. Golden Valley passes domestic partner registry,
  12. Rochester approves domestic partner registry, Minnesota Independent.
  13. St. Louis Park passes domestic partner registry, Richfield to pass same next week,
  14. Richfield City Council Passes Domestic Partner Registry,
  15. "Updates". Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  16. "Falcon Heights is 12th city with domestic partner registry". July 28, 2011. Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  17. Warden, James (September 30, 2011). "Hopkins Passes Franchise Fees, Social Host Ordinance and Domestic Partner Registry - Government - Hopkins, MN Patch". Retrieved November 2, 2013.
  18. "City of Shorewood MN". Retrieved November 2, 2013.
  19. "Bodenwischer - Tests, Infos & Tipps zu Bodenwischer". Bodenwischer.
  20. "Domestic Partnerships in Minnesota - Are Domestic Partnerships Legal in Minnesota?". Retrieved November 2, 2013.
  21. "January 24, 2012 - 4:15 PM".
  22. Mary Jane Smetanka (January 24, 2012). "Eden Prairie OKs registry for domestic partners". Star Tribune.
  23. MSNBC (November 7, 2012). "Minnesota election results". MSNBC. Archived from the original on November 9, 2012.
  24. Minnesota State Legislature (May 10, 2013). "HF 1054 Status in the House for the 88th Legislature (2013 - 2014)". Minnesota State Legislature.
  25. David Bailey (May 9, 2013). "Minnesota House votes to advance same-sex marriage bill". Reuters.
  26. Reuters (May 13, 2013). "Minnesota senate passes gay marriage bill, governor to sign". Reuters.
  27. Huffington Post (May 14, 2013). "Minnesota Legalizes Gay Marriage: Gov. Mark Dayton Signs Bill Into Law". Huffington Post.
  28. "Remembering Minnesota's GLBT Human Rights Act Amendment 15 Years Later". Lavender Magazine. June 5, 2008.
  29. Preston, Joshua. "Allan Spear and the Minnesota Human Rights Act." Minnesota History 65 (2016): 76-87.
  30. "Chapter 22 - Minnesota Session Laws".
  31. Human Rights Campaign: Minnesota Hate Crimes Law Archived May 24, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, accessed May 12, 2011
  32. Human Rights Campaign: Minnesota Adoption Law Archived April 9, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, accessed May 15, 2013
  33. MN Adopt: How to Adopt Archived November 10, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, accessed May 15, 2013
  34. Lewin, Tamar (December 18, 1991). "Disabled Woman's Care Given to Lesbian Partner". New York Times. Retrieved April 5, 2015.
  35. "363A.27 - 2017 Minnesota Statutes".
  36. "Minnesota Birth Certificate Laws". National Center for Transgender Equality.
  37. Walsh, Paul (October 3, 2018). "Minnesota now offers 'X' for gender option on driver's licenses". Star Tribune.
  38. Santoscoy, Carlos (November 24, 2019). "Minneapolis Bans 'Ex-Gay' Therapy". On Top Magazine.
  39. "The 7 Best Towns in Minnesota for LGBT Families - Movoto". Movoto Real Estate.
  40. "Social and Support Groups - Safe Zone - Minnesota State University Minnesota".
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