ST. LOUIS -- Minnesota will not be forced to change how it treats sex offenders until a federal appeals court decides whether the program is constitutional.

The court Tuesday granted the state a stay, which delays enforcement of a federal judge's ruling ordering major changes in the state sex offender treatment program. The court earlier issued a temporary stay.

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Federal Judge Donovan Frank in June ruled that the state sex offender treatment program is unconstitutional.

The program requires some sex offenders to take treatment in a prison-like state hospital after they finish prison sentences. More than 700 are in the program and no one has been fully released.

Frank ordered state officials to change the program, including regularly assessing each patient to determine if he could live outside of the hospital. His orders were designed to allow sex offenders to be released if they presented no major threats to the public.

Gov. Mark Dayton has said his administration is looking into whether sex offenders could be released, but he maintains the program is constitutional.

Appeal of the Frank ruling could take months or years.