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Same-sex couples in state custody seeking marriage prompts policy review

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Should same-sex prisoners in Minnesota and those in state custody be allowed to marry?

It's something officials at the Minnesota Department of Corrections are considering after three couples within the Minnesota Sex Offender Program have requested to marry since gay marriage became legal on Aug. 1.

Nicholas Luhmann and Thomas Bolter are both housed at the sex offender program's Moose Lake facility and want to get married.

Bolter tells MPR that he has a medical issue with his kidneys and wants to ensure that Luhmann would be the one to make the call to "pull the plug" if need be.

But Carlton County requires at least one of the marriage applicants to appear in person at county offices and the sex offender program's transportation policy does not allow officials to transport offenders for personal business other than trips to the doctor's office or the DMV.

Deputy Commissioner Anne Barry of the Department of Human Services told the Star Tribune that they are reviewing their policies and will consider each marriage request request on a case-by-case basis.

“We don’t intend to interfere with their right to marry one another,” Barry said.

No couples in the prison system have requested to marry, but corrections officials say they wouldn't allow it.

John King, Minnesota Department of Corrections assistant commissioner of the facility services division, tells MPR that marriages between inmates would pose a security risk because prisoners could be threatened by other inmates into marriage, giving them access to assets. Also, sex is not allowed is prison facilities.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Proposition 8, prisoners in California will now be allowed to marry their non-incarcerated same-sex partners. Like Minnesota, prisoners cannot marry other prisoners in California.

"Inmates are wards of the state and we are responsible for them and their well-being," said Dana Simas, a California corrections department spokesperson. "And we just can't verify the legitimacy of an inmate marrying an inmate while incarcerated in a California prison."

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