Last edited: February 14, 2005

Kansas Told to Rethink Gay Sex Case

Kansas City Star, June 28, 2003
1729 Grand Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64108
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By Tony Rizzo, The Kansas City Star

A day after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that laws banning gay sex between consenting adults were unconstitutional, legal fallout from the decision landed in Kansas.

The court on Friday ordered Kansas authorities to re-examine the conviction of Matthew Limon of Miami County.

Limon’s attorneys had asked the court to review the case, arguing that he was treated unfairly—and sentenced more harshly—because his alleged victim in a consensual sex crime case was a boy.

The court on Friday took the case and then promptly remanded it to the Kansas Court of Appeals “for further consideration.”

The order was made in light of Thursday’s ruling that struck down Texas’ same-sex sodomy law, the Supreme Court announced. It was the only such order issued Friday, according to a court spokesman.

“Matthew Limon is in prison now because he is gay,” said Dick Kurtenbach, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri. “There is now an opportunity to correct this massive injustice.”

Miami County Attorney David Miller disagreed. He said Limon had been prosecuted under a law designed to protect children.

“The Supreme Court’s decision had to do with consenting adults,” he said. “The victim in this case was not of age to give consent.”

Limon, now 21, is serving a 17-year prison sentence for his conviction on a charge of criminal sodomy. The sentence was enhanced because of two prior criminal sodomy prosecutions when he was a juvenile.

He had just turned 18 and was living at a residential school for developmentally disabled young people when he and another boy, who was almost 15, had a sexual encounter.

At the heart of Limon’s appeal was the “Romeo and Juliet law,” passed by Kansas legislators in 2000. It was designed to make sexual acts between young people who are similar in age a less-serious crime than similar acts involving teens and older adults.

But the unlawful voluntary sexual relations law was written to apply only when the child and offender are members of the opposite sex.

Limon’s lawyers argued that the so-called Romeo and Juliet law unconstitutionally discriminated against homosexuals, leaving Limon to be charged with a more-serious crime.

Had he been prosecuted on the less-serious charge, Limon would have faced a prison sentence of 13 to 15 months.

The Kansas Court of Appeals denied Limon’s appeal in February 2002, basing the decision on a 1986 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Bowers v. Hardwick, which upheld laws against same-sex sodomy.

“The United States Supreme Court does not recognize homosexual behavior to be in a protected class...,” the Kansas court wrote. “Therefore, there is no denial of equal protection when that behavior is criminalized or treated differently, at least under an equal protection basis.”

The Kansas Court of Appeals said it was up to the Legislature to evaluate the “fairness or humanity” of criminal laws. The court found it had no choice but to follow the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling.

But in Thursday’s 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court overturned Bowers v. Hardwick, opening the door for Friday’s action.

State Rep. Mike O’Neal, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the question of sexual orientation never came up in debate about the Romeo and Juliet law.

The language of the law was consistent with the historical language of other Kansas statutes, said O’Neal, a Hutchinson Republican.

After this week’s actions by the U.S. Supreme Court, O’Neal said, the Romeo and Juliet law may have to be amended.

“I’m fine with that,” he said.

But state Sen. John Vratil, a Leawood Republican, said it was too early to talk about legislative action until there is some final decision from the Kansas courts.

“I would not favor crafting a legislative solution to an assumed problem,” Vratil said.

It was not known Friday when the Kansas Court of Appeals might take up Limon’s case. His attorneys said they would push for his immediate release from prison.

  • To reach Tony Rizzo, Johnson County court reporter, call (816) 234-7713 or send e-mail to

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