Couples in sex offender program face dilemma in applying for marriage licensesCarlton County Recorder Kristine Bacilici admitted on Wednesday, “There’s been a little bit of excitement [at our office] lately.” The unaccustomed attention came after three different clients from the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) in Moose Lake called to requested license applications to marry same sex clients also lodged at the state facility.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Carlton County Recorder Kristine Bacilici admitted on Wednesday, “There’s been a little bit of excitement [at our office] lately.”
The unaccustomed attention came after three different clients from the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) in Moose Lake called to requested license applications to marry same sex clients also lodged at the state facility. The requests came following Minnesota’s new gay marriage law, which took effect Aug. 1.
“After consultation with the county attorney’s office [to find out the procedures surrounding sending such documents to state institutions],” said Bacilici, “the applications were mailed to them along with written instruction sheets.”
The sticking point, however, is the fact that according to Minnesota Statute 507.18, at least one of the applicants must appear before the county recorder in person in order to submit the application. That’s tough to do when someone is under court-ordered confinement.
What happened next was something Bacilici admitted she “wasn’t really expecting.” In short order, she received phone calls from both Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) and the Minneapolis Star Tribune wanting to interview her about statements that were reportedly made by the MSOP clients regarding the marriage license application policy.
“What I told them was the same thing I’d tell anyone, across the board,” said Bacilici. “The statute is very clear in stating that at least one person [from a couple applying for a marriage license] must submit the application in person. That’s the way it is for anyone.”
Bacilici said she called her counterpart in the Pine County Recorder’s office to find out if there had been any similar requests from MSOP clients there and was told they had received one inquiry but no further action had been taken to secure a license.
According to a report by MPR, some clients in the MSOP program have married women on the outside in the past. However, sex offender couples from within the facility who are seeking to file their applications can’t get to the courthouse under current Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) policies, which state that no transportation is allowed for personal business. Department policy does allow transportation, however, for medical appointments and for trips to the local motor vehicle office.
Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake said such transportation is supplied by the MSOP itself and that her department only transports clients who are court-ordered to report, such as those for whom warrants have been issued. She said her department would not have the resources to provide anything more.
Bacilici reported that since Minnesota’s same sex marriage law took effect Aug. 1, one MSOP client did stop by her office in person to request a marriage license application on his way to court in the same building, but no further action has yet been taken by that potential applicant.
MPR reported that one of the MSOP couples seeking a marriage license application is Nicholas Luhmann and Thomas Bolter. Bolter told MPR that he has kidney problems and 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.
In a letter to the Duluth News Tribune, the same pair wrote: “Our intentions behind wanting to marry has nothing to do with wanting to force MSOP to allow us to room together or any other silly misconception that clients have thought this would get them. What we are after is to have our relationship legally recognized and to have the same rights and protections that any other married couple has.”
Reports in the statewide media earlier this week drew quick response from the DHS. On Monday night, Deputy Human Services Commissioner Anne Barry, who oversees the sex offender program, made a statement on the issue of MSOP clients wishing to marry, saying, “We don’t intend to interfere with their right to marry one another.”
The Minnesota Sex Offender Program in Moose Lake and St. Peter 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.
According to a report by the Associated Press, 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.
Regarding the state’s prisons, the Department of Corrections said no same-sex inmates 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.
“I’m not assuming that all marriages are sexual in their very being, but that certainly is … a component of a relationship, and that’s a problem for us, because sex is not allowed in our correctional facilities,” King told MPR.
Barry said Monday that the DHS is currently reviewing its policies in light of the new same-sex marriage law.
Since the new gay marriage law took effect, Bacilici said her office has received approximately 13 marriage license applications from same sex couples in Carlton County.