Attorney Promises Appeal of Ruling in Sodomy Case
City Star, January 31, 2004
1729 Grand Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64108
By John Hanna, Associated Press
TOPEKA, Kan.—Calling the decision
a “victory for prejudice and fear,” an attorney is promising to appeal a
ruling by Kansas’ second-highest court that the state can punish illegal sex
with children more harshly when it involves homosexual acts.
But Attorney General Phill Kline and groups that promote
traditional values said Friday that the decision is a good one. Kline also
suggested the ruling would prevent a future attack on the state’s ban on
The case of Matthew R. Limon had been watched by national
advocacy groups because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that struck
down laws criminalizing gay sex between consenting adults—including one in
Convicted of sodomy for having sex in 2000 at age 18 with
a 14-year-old boy, Limon was sentenced to more than 17 years in prison. Had
Limon’s partner been an underage girl, he could have been convicted of
unlawful sex under the state’s “Romeo and Juliet” law and sentenced at
most to one year and three months in prison.
Judge Henry W. Green Jr. wrote in Friday’s 2-1 decision
that legislators could justify differing penalties for homosexual and
heterosexual sodomy in plenty of ways, including greater health risks or an
attempt to “encourage and preserve the traditional sexual mores of
Tamara Lange, an ACLU attorney representing Limon, said
she is likely to ask the Kansas Supreme Court to review the decision, though
she has not ruled out asking the Court of Appeals to reconsider.
“This decision is not a victory for morality or a
victory for Kansas,” she said. “It’s a victory for prejudice and
Kline said the decision preserved the Legislature’s
right to set criminal sentencing policy. He reiterated his contention that
Kansas laws banning same-sex marriages or sex with minors could have been
undermined had the ACLU been successful in overturning Limon’s sentence.
Kline also noted that Limon had been convicted twice
before of similar crimes. He accused the ACLU of trying to portray Limon as
having “a loving teen relationship” when Limon was “convicted for the
third time of molesting a child.”
“I think sentencing of a period of years in that
instance is appropriate,” Kline said during a news conference.
But Lange dismissed Kline’s arguments as “smoke and
mirrors” and said that the sex with the other boy, identified only as M.A.R.,
was consensual. Both Limon and the other boy lived at a group home for the
developmentally disabled near Paola.
“Any rational person who hears about the real facts of
this case recognizes it’s completely unfair for Matthew Limon to be sitting
in prison for 17 years for having a consensual sexual relationship,” she
The ACLU argued that the differing sentences represented
unconstitutional discrimination against gays.
The Court of Appeals had rejected Limon’s appeal in
2002, and the Kansas Supreme Court had refused to hear the case, which led the
ACLU to ask for a U.S. Supreme Court review. In June, the nation’s highest
court returned the case to Kansas, asking the Court of Appeals to reconsider
in light of the ruling against anti-sodomy laws.
However, the Kansas appeals panel said that the U.S.
Supreme Court decision in June did not apply to sex acts involving children.
The dissenting judge, G. Joseph Pierron Jr., said the
state had no rational basis for the differences in sentencing.
“We grant deference, not blind acquiescence, to
legislative findings,” Pierron wrote. “This blatantly discriminatory
sentencing provision does not live up to American standards of equal
And Susan Sommer, an attorney for the gay rights group
Lambda Legal, which was involved in the case that led to June’s U.S. Supreme
Court ruling, said the Kansas ruling “reflects an archaic set of attitudes
But Richard Thomas, president and chief counsel for the
Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., which advocates traditional
values, said it is appropriate for the Legislature to support heterosexual
relationships “that children ultimately will have when they become
“It is in the state’s interest to safeguard the
psychological well-being of minors who may be developing their sexual
identities,” he said.
Kansas law makes any sexual activity involving a person
under 16 illegal. The 1999 “Romeo and Juliet” law, however, provides
lesser penalties for consensual sex when one partner is 19 or under and the
other partner’s age is within four years.
As a Kansas House member in 1999, Kline voted against
enacting the law, seeing it as too lenient. He said Friday he still does not
support it because, “I believe this state needs to engage in all efforts to
protect children from sexual exploitation.”
The case is State vs. Matthew R. Limon, No.
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