Gay Marriage Law Causes Prisoner Dilemma
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota officials will allow sex offenders in the state’s high-security treatment program to marry one another, a top official of the Minnesota Department of Human Services said Monday.
Three pairs of men in treatment at the state facility in Moose Lake are seeking marriage licenses following Minnesota’s new gay marriage law, which took effect Aug. 1.
“We don’t intend to interfere with their right to marry one another,” Deputy Human Services Commissioner Anne Barry told the Star Tribune. Barry’s duties include overseeing the sex offender program.
The Minnesota Sex Offender Program houses more than 600 offenders considered too risky and dangerous to live in the community. All but one of the offenders in the program are men.
In the past, some clients in the program have married women on the outside, but state law requires one member of a marrying couple to file the license application in person with the county recorder. That has been a sticking point for the three sex offender couples seeking to file their applications because they can’t get to the courthouse under current DHS policies.
Nicholas Luhmann and Thomas Bolter are both housed in the state’s sex offender treatment center in Moose Lake, Minnesota Public Radio News reported. They recently contacted the Carlton County recorder to apply for a marriage license but were told that state law requires at least one applicant to appear in person. The couple requested transportation, but the state Department of Human Services denied it, citing a policy that no transportation is allowed for personal business.
Bolter told MPR News that he has kidney problems and that he wants Luhmann to be able to make medical decisions for him since he has no contact with his family. “I truly believe he has my best interests at heart,” Bolter said of Luhmann.
Department policy does allow transportation for medical appointments and for trips to a local motor vehicle office. The agency says it’s reviewing its policies in light of the new same-sex marriage law.
Attorney Dan Gustafson, who is involved with a class-action lawsuit that argues the sex offender program violates individuals’ constitutional rights, said a new claim could be added if it becomes clear that some in the program have been denied marriage rights.
The Department of Corrections said no same-sex couples in custody have applied for licenses. John King, an assistant commissioner, said the department has a policy forbidding sex between inmates and said that marriages between inmates would jeopardize security.
But Chuck Samuelson, director of the ACLU of Minnesota, said he believed denying such a request would be illegal.
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