ACLU Appeals Teen Sex Case to High Court
PlanetOut.com Network, October 10, 2002
By Ann Rostow
SUMMARY: The ACLU asked the Supreme Court to review
the case of a young man sentenced to 17 years in prison for consensual oral
sex with another teen.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a petition to
the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday, asking the court to review the case of
Matthew Limon, a young man sentenced to 17 years in a Kansas prison for having
consensual oral sex with another teen-age boy.
Kansas law prohibits various sexual scenarios, and has a
special category for sex with a person between 14 and 16. Adults breaching
this criminal sodomy section face harsh penalties, but Kansas lawmakers carved
out some breathing space for youthful miscreants, provided they are 18 or
under, and within four years of age of their consensual partner. Called the
“Romeo and Juliet” law, the provision limits the penalty for teen sex to
15 months in jail, and does not require the perpetrator to register as a sex
But the “Romeo and Juliet” law only applies to
About a week after his 18th birthday, Matthew Limon
talked a fellow student at the Lakemary Center for developmentally disabled
children into letting him perform oral sex. The younger boy, just a month shy
of his 15th birthday, eventually asked Limon to stop, which he did. When the
situation came to the attention of authorities, Limon was charged as an adult,
under the harshest version of the statute.
Because Limon had a similar incident in his juvenile
record, he drew a sentence of 206 months in prison, followed by 60 months of
post- release supervision. He will also have to register as a sex offender.
Limon’s lawyers challenged the sentence, arguing that
the different penalties for similarly situated teens violated the Equal
Protection Clause of the Kansas and U.S. constitutions. But last February, the
Kansas Court of Appeals upheld the sentencing court, relying heavily on the
1986 U.S. Supreme Court sodomy ruling in Bowers v. Hardwick.
By declining to review the case a few months later, the
Kansas Supreme Court passively added its weight to the Court of Appeals
“The impact of Bowers on our case is obvious,” wrote
the Court of Appeals in reference to the high court’s 1986 opinion upholding
Georgia’s sodomy law. “The U.S. Supreme Court does not recognize
homosexual behavior to be in a protected class … therefore there is no
denial of equal protection when that behavior is criminalized or treated
differently. … It should be noted that Bowers was a 5-4 decision,” the
opinion continued. “However, there is no present indication that the
decision would be different today.”
The U.S. Supreme Court will have a chance to take their
present day views on sodomy and equal protection out of the realm of
speculation by accepting the ACLU’s petition in Limon, or alternatively, by
agreeing to review the Texas sodomy case, Lawrence
and Garner v. Texas, filed in July.
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