ACLU Challenges Kansas Teen-Sex Law
November 20, 2001
TOPEKA, Ks.óA law that sentenced an 18-year-old to
17 years in prison for having sex with a teen three years and one month his
junior is being challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Topeka
Capital-Journal reports. Matthew Limon, a resident of a school for
developmentally disabled young people turned 18 in February of 2000. Limon
performed a sex act with another boy, identified only as M.A.R., who was one
month shy of his 15th birthday. Their encounter was consensual.
A year before they had sex, Kansas legislators enacted what became known as
the "Romeo and Juliet" law. Its goal was to separate consensual
teen-age sexual relationships from cases in which older adults exploited young
It lessened the penalties for unlawful but consensual sexual relations
where one person is under 19 and the other person is between 14 and 16, if
their ages are less than four years apart. The new law also ended the
requirement that people convicted in such cases register with police as sex
The law, however, applies only when the young sexual partners are of the
opposite sex. Had Limon or the near 15-old been female, the maximum sentence
would have been one year and three months.
That difference has drawn the involvement of the American Civil Liberties
Union and other legal rights organizations into Limonís case. The challenge
is thought to be the first of its kind in the nation to reach an appellate
court, making it a possible test case for gay civil rights advocates
A three-member Kansas Court of Appeals panel plans to hear arguments in
Limonís case on Tuesday at the Kansas Judicial Center in Topeka.
The court could issue a decision by early next year.
The civil liberties groups are asking the appellate court to declare that
Limonís tougher sentence violates his right to equal protection under the
law and to strike down the provision of Kansas law that led to the longer
"When you read the text of the law, the only conclusion you can come
to is that the (Kansas) Legislature thinks gays should be punished more
severely than straight people," Tamara Lange, an ACLU attorney, told the
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