Group Forms Task Force to Focus on Gay Rights
Kansas City Star, September 2, 2004
By Mary Sanchez,
The Kansas City Star
A Missouri constitutional amendment banning same-sex
marriage takes effect today, almost a month after it was overwhelmingly
approved by voters.
On Wednesday, local gay and lesbian advocates announced a
new task force with the goal of educating people on the need to support gay
The LGBT Rights Project will work in conjunction with the
American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri.
The group’s first project is a recently completed
handbook explaining what rights gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered
people do and do not have in Missouri and Kansas.
“Missouri is certainly a place with a lot of need in
that there are other places, like California, that have very active and
well-organized LGBT communities that have already achieved a lot,” said
James Esseks, litigation director of the Lesbian and Gay Rights Project of the
ACLU’s New York office.
Esseks was in the area to argue the case of Matthew R.
Limon before the Kansas Supreme Court. Limon was convicted of criminal sodomy
in Miami County for having sex with a 14-year-old boy.
Limon was 18 at the time and received a sentence of more
than 17 years.
The ACLU is challenging the case because if Limon had had
sex with an underage girl, his sentence could have been one year and three
“In the Limon case we are not saying that Kansas
can’t make it a crime to have sex with a teenager,” Esseks said. “Of
course they can. But they can’t make it a different crime if you are
straight rather than if you are gay.”
Kansas is arguing that it can punish a person more
harshly when underage sex involves homosexuality—even if the goal of the law
is to promote traditional sexual roles—if it will protect children or the
The ACLU was one of the earliest national organizations
to work for the rights of gay people, said Lisa Brunner, a Kansas City lawyer
who is chairwoman of the local project.
Work began more than a year ago to organize the new local
gay rights task force, Brunner said.
Brunner was a co-author of the handbook The Rights of
Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgendered People in Missouri. The handbook is
available for $5 through the ACLU office, 3601 Main St., and may soon be
available at some bookstores, Brunner said.
Five areas of law are discussed: community, employment
and housing; schools; couples and marriage; parenting; and violence against
Brunner said she hoped the handbook would give people
information such as whether students are allowed to take a same-sex date to
the prom or whether a state allows adoption by gay couples.
Many people may simply be unaware of some gay rights
issues, as opposed to being adamantly against gay people, Brunner said.
“They may not understand how important it is until they
hear real stories about real people,” she said.
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