Attorney Promises Appeal of Kansas Sodomy Case
Advocate, February 3, 2004
Calling a Friday court ruling a “victory for prejudice
and fear,” an attorney will appeal a decision by Kansas’s second-highest
court that the state can punish illegal sex with children more harshly when it
involves homosexual acts. But Attorney General Phill Kline and conservative
groups said the decision is a good one. Kline also suggested that the ruling
could preempt future legal challenges to the state’s ban on same-sex
The case of Matthew R. Limon had been closely watched by
national advocacy groups ever since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June
striking down laws criminalizing gay sex between consenting adults, including
the sodomy law in Kansas. Convicted of sodomy for having sex in 2000 at age 18
with a 14-year-old boy, Limon was sentenced to more than 17 years in prison.
Had Limon’s partner been an underage girl, he could have been convicted of
unlawful sex under the state’s “Romeo and Juliet” law and sentenced to
at most one year and three months in prison.
Tamara Lange, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney
representing Limon, said she is likely to ask the Kansas supreme court to
review the decision, though she has not ruled out asking the court of appeals
to reconsider. “This decision is not a victory for morality or a victory for
Kansas,” she said. “It’s a victory for prejudice and fear.”
Kline said the decision preserves the legislature’s
right to set criminal sentencing policy. He reiterated his contention that
Kansas laws banning same-sex marriages or sex with minors could have been
undermined had the ACLU been successful in overturning Limon’s sentence.
Kline also noted that Limon had been convicted twice before of similar crimes.
He accused the ACLU of trying to portray Limon as having “a loving teen
relationship” when he was “convicted for the third time of molesting a
But Lange dismissed Kline’s arguments as “smoke and
mirrors” and said that the sex with the other boy, identified only as M.A.R.,
was consensual. Both Limon and the other boy lived at a group home for the
developmentally disabled near Paola. “Any rational person who hears about
the real facts of this case recognizes it’s completely unfair for Matthew
Limon to be sitting in prison for 17 years for having a consensual sexual
relationship,” she said. The ACLU argued that the differing sentences
represented unconstitutional discrimination against gays.
The appeals court had rejected Limon’s appeal in 2002,
and the Kansas supreme court had refused to hear the case, which led the ACLU
to ask for a U.S. Supreme Court review. In June the nation’s highest court
returned the case to Kansas, asking the appeals court to reconsider in light
of the high court’s ruling against sodomy laws.
However, the Kansas appeals panel said that the U.S.
Supreme Court decision in June does not apply to sex acts involving children.
The dissenting judge, G. Joseph Pierron Jr., said the state had no rational
basis for the differences in sentencing. “We grant deference, not blind
acquiescence, to legislative findings,” Pierron wrote. “This blatantly
discriminatory sentencing provision does not live up to American standards of
Kansas law makes any sexual activity involving a person
under 16 illegal. The 1999 “Romeo and Juliet” law, however, provides
lesser penalties for consensual sex when one partner is 19 or under and the
other partner’s age is within four years. As a Kansas house member in 1999,
Kline voted against enacting the law, seeing it as too lenient. He said Friday
that he still does not support it because “I believe this state needs to
engage in all efforts to protect children from sexual exploitation.”
[Home] [News] [Kansas]