Last edited: February 01, 2004

Kansas Court Upholds Tougher Sentences for Gay Sex, January 30, 2004

By Newscenter Staff

Topeka, Kansas—The Kansas Court of Appeals Friday upheld a 17-year prison sentence handed a teenager convicted of having sex with another teen.

Matthew Limon was 18 years old when he was convicted in 2000 of having consensual oral sex with a 14-year-old boy at a private group home for people with developmental disabilities in Paola.

Limon never denied the sex nor that it was with a minor. But, that he would have served a maximum of only 15 months in jail under the Kansas law had the other teenager been female.

Because the state’s so-called “Romeo and Juliet” law applies only to heterosexuals, Limon was convicted under the much harsher state sodomy law.

The ACLU, which represented Limon argued that the Kansas “Romeo and Juliet” law is similar to the Texas law the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in June in its historic decision in Lawrence v. Texas because the Kansas law treats the sexual conduct of lesbian and gay people differently.

The day after its decision in the Texas case, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated Limon’s conviction and instructed the Kansas Court of Appeals to give it further consideration in light of its ruling in Lawrence.

Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline in his submission to the court claimed that the state should be able to punish gay teenagers more harshly under the “Romeo and Juliet” law because doing so would encourage heterosexual teenagers to marry.

In a 2-1 decision the state Court of Appeals affirmed the original sentence.

Judge Henry Green Jr. held that the facts in the Texas case differed from those in the Limon case; specifically in not dealing with sex with minors.

Judge G. Joseph Pierron was the lone dissenter, arguing that Kansas law that mandates higher prison sentences for illegal sex acts, based on whether the defendant is the same sex as the victim, was unconstitutional.

“The court’s opinion in this case defies comprehension, and we intend to seek an appeal,” said Dick Kurtenbach, Executive Director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri.

“The U.S. Supreme Court ordered Kansas to reconsider this case in light of its holding last summer that the government can’t have a different set of rules for gay people than it does for straight people. But the Kansas court’s opinion is written as if Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down same-sex-only sodomy laws, had never even happened.”

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