Told to Rethink Gay Sex Case
City Star, June 28, 2003
1729 Grand Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64108
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By Tony Rizzo, The Kansas City Star
A day after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that laws
banning gay sex between consenting adults were unconstitutional, legal fallout
from the decision landed in Kansas.
The court on Friday ordered Kansas authorities to
re-examine the conviction of Matthew Limon of Miami County.
Limon’s attorneys had asked the court to review the
case, arguing that he was treated unfairly—and sentenced more
harshly—because his alleged victim in a consensual sex crime case was a boy.
The court on Friday took the case and then promptly
remanded it to the Kansas Court of Appeals “for further consideration.”
The order was made in light of Thursday’s ruling that
struck down Texas’ same-sex sodomy law, the Supreme Court announced. It was
the only such order issued Friday, according to a court spokesman.
“Matthew Limon is in prison now because he is gay,”
said Dick Kurtenbach, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union
of Kansas and Western Missouri. “There is now an opportunity to correct this
Miami County Attorney David Miller disagreed. He said
Limon had been prosecuted under a law designed to protect children.
“The Supreme Court’s decision had to do with
consenting adults,” he said. “The victim in this case was not of age to
Limon, now 21, is serving a 17-year prison sentence for
his conviction on a charge of criminal sodomy. The sentence was enhanced
because of two prior criminal sodomy prosecutions when he was a juvenile.
He had just turned 18 and was living at a residential
school for developmentally disabled young people when he and another boy, who
was almost 15, had a sexual encounter.
At the heart of Limon’s appeal was the “Romeo and
Juliet law,” passed by Kansas legislators in 2000. It was designed to make
sexual acts between young people who are similar in age a less-serious crime
than similar acts involving teens and older adults.
But the unlawful voluntary sexual relations law was
written to apply only when the child and offender are members of the opposite
Limon’s lawyers argued that the so-called Romeo and
Juliet law unconstitutionally discriminated against homosexuals, leaving Limon
to be charged with a more-serious crime.
Had he been prosecuted on the less-serious charge, Limon
would have faced a prison sentence of 13 to 15 months.
The Kansas Court of Appeals denied Limon’s appeal in
February 2002, basing the decision on a 1986 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Bowers
v. Hardwick, which upheld laws against same-sex sodomy.
“The United States Supreme Court does not recognize
homosexual behavior to be in a protected class...,” the Kansas court wrote.
“Therefore, there is no denial of equal protection when that behavior is
criminalized or treated differently, at least under an equal protection
The Kansas Court of Appeals said it was up to the
Legislature to evaluate the “fairness or humanity” of criminal laws. The
court found it had no choice but to follow the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling.
But in Thursday’s 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court
overturned Bowers v. Hardwick, opening the door for Friday’s action.
State Rep. Mike O’Neal, chairman of the House Judiciary
Committee, said the question of sexual orientation never came up in debate
about the Romeo and Juliet law.
The language of the law was consistent with the
historical language of other Kansas statutes, said O’Neal, a Hutchinson
After this week’s actions by the U.S. Supreme Court,
O’Neal said, the Romeo and Juliet law may have to be amended.
“I’m fine with that,” he said.
But state Sen. John Vratil, a Leawood Republican, said it
was too early to talk about legislative action until there is some final
decision from the Kansas courts.
“I would not favor crafting a legislative solution to
an assumed problem,” Vratil said.
It was not known Friday when the Kansas Court of Appeals
might take up Limon’s case. His attorneys said they would push for his
immediate release from prison.
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