Judge Questions Punishment in Sodomy Case
Capital-Journal, December 2, 2003
616 SE Jefferson, Topeka, KS 66607
Tel: 800-777-7171, 785-295-1111
By Chris Grenz
An appellate judge today aggressively questioned a deputy
attorney general who argued that the Legislature has the right to set policies
regarding teen sex—even if lawmakers treat gays differently than
Justice G. Joseph Pierron, the presiding judge of a
three-judge Court of Appeals panel hearing the case of Limon v. Kansas,
repeatedly questioned the legislative intent behind a law that lessens the
penalty for teenagers who engage in voluntary sexual relations but
specifically excludes homosexuals.
“I’m trying to find what the real reason was other
than, ‘We just don’t like homosexuals,’ “ Pierron said at one point.
Limon was sentenced to more than 17 years in prison after
he engaged in voluntary sexual relations with a 14-year-old boy just after
Limon turned 18. But had Limon’s partner been female, Limon could have been
sentenced to about one year in prison. Limon appealed his sentence all the way
to the U.S. Supreme Court, which sent the case back to Kansas in light of its
June ruling striking down laws that criminalize gay sex. The Kansas Court of
Appeals panel may rule by February.
In Kansas, sexual relations for those under 16 are always
illegal. But under the state’s “Romeo and Juliet Law,” the punishment is
far less severe when the sexual relations are voluntary and between someone 14
to 16 and someone under 19—so long as the sex is between a male and female.
“The question here is whether there’s any
justification for punishing sex with minors differently based on sex and
sexual orientation,” said Tamara Lange, an attorney with the American Civil
Liberties Union, which represented Limon. “We submit to the court that there
But Deputy Attorney General Jared Maag argued that the
Legislature has the authority to determine the punishment for minors who
engage in sexual acts in order to teach moral values to children, including
“traditional family roles.”
Maag said the different penalties for same-sex teenage
couples would promote marriage, encourage procreation and discourage the
spread of disease.
But Pierron said the notion that the different penalties
would encourage marriage and procreation was “utterly ridiculous.”
Chris Grenz can be reached at (785) 296-3005 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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