Court Takes on Gay Teen Sex Case
Capital-Journal, December 3, 2003
616 SE Jefferson Street, Topeka, KS 66607
By Chris Grenz, The Capital-Journal
An appellate judge on Tuesday 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 from
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.
Matthew R. 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. 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.”
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