LGBT rights in Minnesota

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Map of USA MN.svg
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

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.

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[edit]

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, it kept this prohibition. In 1921, it expanded the definition of sodomy to include fellatio as well as anal intercourse.[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 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 State Constitution's 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.

No bill has been introduced to repeal Minnesota's sodomy law.[5]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

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

Baker v. Nelson[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

The Minneapolis City Council expressed opposition to Minnesota Amendment 1 in 2012.

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 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[edit]

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[edit]

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 singles 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[edit]

The 1993 addition of sexual orientation to Minnesota's Human Rights Act also included following anti-gay propaganda quote within Minnesota law, part of which is still in force as of 2018:

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] Although parts of the law are moot.

Gender identity or expression[edit]

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]

Living conditions[edit]

The 2018 edition of Twin Cites Pride

The Twin Cities metro area has a vibrant LGBT community, seen 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.[38] Though, Pine City is home to one of the state's only rural prides. But, Pine City is largely a bedroom community for people that work in the nearby Twin Cities area.

A small LGBT group exists in Brainerd and another small group, SOHR (Sexual Orientation and Human Rights), exists for the lakes region.[39]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The best and worst states for LGBT equality".
  2. ^ a b "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. ^ a b "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.
  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
  29. ^ Preston, Joshua. "Allan Spear and the Minnesota Human Rights Act." Minnesota History 65 (2016): 76-87.
  30. ^ a b c "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. ^ "The 7 Best Towns in Minnesota for LGBT Families - Movoto". Movoto Real Estate.
  39. ^ "Social and Support Groups - Safe Zone - Minnesota State University Minnesota".