Kansas High Court to Review Gay Teenís Case
May 28, 2004
By Ann Rostow, PlanetOut Network
SUMMARY: The Kansas Supreme Court agreed to hear an
appeal on behalf of Matthew Limon, who was sentenced to 17 years in prison for
an act of consensual oral sex with another male teenager.
A long-running fight on behalf of a Kansas teen may be
entering the home stretch. On Thursday, the Kansas Supreme Court agreed to
hear an appeal on behalf of Matthew Limon, the young man who has been
sentenced to 17 years in prison for an act of consensual oral sex with another
Limonís lawsuit has already run its course through the
state courts and reached the U.S. Supreme Court, where Limonís ACLU lawyers
hoped the justices would agree to hear an appeal. But instead of reviewing the
case, the nine justices sent the Limon case back to the Kansas Court of
Appeals for reconsideration last summer, in view of their decision in Lawrence
v. Texas. Observers widely expected the state appellate court to follow the
legal analysis articulated in Lawrence, and rule that Matthew Limon could not
be sanctioned so harshly for consensual gay sex.
Instead, the appellate court ignored the Lawrence
precedent, ruling that the state of Kansas had every right to set draconian
limits on underage gay sex. Under Kansas law, no one under 19 has the legal
right to have sex, but authorities turn a blind eye to young lovers if they
are heterosexual. A statute called the Romeo-and-Juliet law sets a maximum
sentence of about a year in prison for straight kids who are repeatedly caught
fooling around with their peers.
In Limonís case, he had previously been disciplined for
a sexual encounter when he was caught having sex with a boy three years his
junior. Just 18 at the time, Limon was charged as a repeat offender under
adult felony statutes, and sentenced accordingly. He has already served over
four years for his ďcrime,Ē and has about 13 years left.
After the latest ruling in January, the ACLU asked the
state Supreme Court to review the case. Two years ago, when the case was first
rising through the state system, the Kansas Supreme Court had refused to hear
the appeal, letting the original appellate ruling stand. But this time, the
justices agreed to hear the matter.
The decision may be a good sign for Limon and his
lawyers, since the court would not have accepted review had the justices
agreed with the appellate panel. Moreover, the composition of the seven-member
high court has changed dramatically since the first round, with the
appointment of three new justices last year by Democratic Gov. Kathleen
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