Last edited: December 05, 2004

Unfair: Equalize Sex Laws

Wichita Eagle, February 7, 2004
South Kansas Avenue, Wichita, KS 66603
Fax: 316-268-6627

Last week’s Kansas Court of Appeals ruling in the case of Matthew R. Limon suggested that the Legislature does and should have the ability to make unfair laws, in this case a sentencing provision that treats consensual gay sex between teens far more harshly than state law treats consensual heterosexual sex between teens of the same ages. Because Mr. Limon, then 18, and the 14-year-old he had sex with were of the same gender, the case was treated as one of criminal sodomy involving an adult and child. Had either teen been female, the 1999 “Romeo and Juliet” teen-sex law and its lesser penalties would have applied.

The majority opinion mentioned protecting children, preserving “traditional sexual mores” of society and even considering “certain health risks” in outlining the basis for how the “Legislature could have rationally determined that heterosexual sodomy between a child and an adult could be put in a class by itself.”

But the fact that lawmakers can pass what the dissenting opinion termed a “blatantly discriminatory sentencing provision” doesn’t mean they should let the law stand.

Even Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, who praised the court’s ruling as a “broad victory in protecting the institution of marriage as well as protecting laws which serve to protect children from predatory sexual behavior,” has recognized the inherent unfairness of a system that can punish gay teen sex with a 17-year sentence and heterosexual teen sex with a 15-month sentence.

Last fall Mr. Kline said, “I would be the first to say the Legislature should change the law.... It should be orientation-neutral.”

He was right then. Legislators shouldn’t let renewed and unrelated opposition to gay marriage deter them from doing the right thing on this issue now.

  • For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman

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