Kansas Court Rejects Appeal in Sodomy Case
Associated Press, January 30, 2004
TOPEKA—Kansas can punish someone
more harshly for having sex with a minor if the minor is of the same sex, the
state Court of Appeals ruled today.
A three-judge panel, splitting 2-1, rejected the appeal
of Matthew R. Limon, sentenced to more than 17 years in prison for having sex
with an underage boy in 2000.
Had Limon engaged in sex with an underage girl, he could
have been sentenced to one year and three months in prison.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented
Limon, and other gay rights activists had hoped the court would declare that
the difference in sentencing represented unconstitutional discrimination
against gays and lesbians.
The ACLU and gay rights activists had pinned their hopes
on a U.S. Supreme Court decision in June that struck down state laws,
including one in Kansas, criminalizing gay sex between consulting adults.
However, the Kansas appeals panel said that decision did
not apply to sex acts involving children.
“The question we must address is whether the
Legislature can punish those adults who engage in heterosexual sodomy with a
child less severely than those adults who engage in homosexual sodomy with a
child. The answer is yes,” said appeals Judge Henry W. Green Jr., writing
for the majority.
“The Legislature could have rationally determined that
heterosexual sodomy between a child and an adult could be put in a class by
itself and be dealt with differently than homosexual sodomy between a child an
adult,” Green wrote.
Attorney General Phill Kline had made the same argument
and saw the appeals panel’s ruling as a big victory. He also had suggested
that if the ACLU were to succeed in overturning Limon’s sentence, it could
strengthen a future attack on a Kansas law banning same-sex marriages.
“I would say what I’m most pleased with is the
court’s rejection with the broad ACLU arguments,” Kline said during an
Limon’s conviction stems from acts with a 14-year-old
boy. Both were residents of a Paola group home for the developmentally
disabled. Limon was 18 at the time.
The Court of Appeals also rejected Limon’s challenge in
February 2002, but last June, the U.S. Supreme Court returned the case to
Kansas, resulting in the December rehearing before the appeals court.
Kansas law makes any sexual activity involving a person
under 16 illegal, regardless of the context. The attorney general’s office
made much of Limon having two previous, similar offenses on his record,
suggesting they helped justify his lengthy sentence.
Limon could have received a much lighter sentence had he
or the 14-year-old boy, identified only as M.A.R, been female because a 1999
statute, known as the “Romeo and Juliet” law, provides lesser penalties
for consensual sex when one partner is 19 or under and the other partner’s
age is within four years.
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