Last edited: February 02, 2004

Teen’s 17-Year Sentence for Gay Sex Upheld / Network, January 30, 2004

By Christopher Curtis

SUMMARY: Advocates for GLBT rights were outraged after the Kansas Court of Appeals ruled that the state can punish homosexual acts between minors much more severely than heterosexual ones.

Advocates for GLBT civil rights reacted with anger after the Kansas Court of Appeals ruled Friday that the state can punish homosexual acts between minors much more severely than heterosexual ones.

The 2-1 ruling affects Matthew R. Limon, who was sentenced in 2001 to more than 17 years in prison for having consensual oral sex after he had just turned 18 with a boy nearly a month away from his 15th birthday in a home for the developmentally disabled.

According to state law, sexual activity with anyone under 16 is illegal. But if Limon had been having a heterosexual encounter, he would have only faced a sentence of 15 months under the state’s “Romeo and Juliet” law, which limits penalties for underage sex between heterosexual teenagers.

This is the second time the Kansas Court of Appeals has heard Limon’s case. In February of 2002, the Kansas Appellate court rejected his equal protection claim. But the U.S. Supreme Court remanded Limon’s case last year after its historic Lawrence v. Texas ruling, when it ruled laws cannot treat the sexual conduct of gays and lesbians differently than that of heterosexuals.

Mitchell Katine, a Texas-based lawyer who participated in the Lawrence v. Texas case, was disappointed with Friday’s ruling.

“The Supreme Court wanted to give the Kansas court an opportunity to correct the case in light of Lawrence,” he told the Network. “How many Supreme Court cases are there going to have to be before courts get the message that gay and lesbian people are to be treated equally?”

Kansas Judge Henry W. Green Jr. justified his ruling by saying legislators could claim homosexual acts entail health risks. Green also wrote that heterosexual offenses are less objectionable because they could lead to babies being born, and “same-sex relationships do not generally lead to unwanted pregnancies.”

“It’s insane! It’s insane!” reacted Chris Hampton, a spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Lesbian and Gay Rights Projects. “The state is basically encouraging teen pregnancy.”

The ACLU is representing Limon and told the Network it plans to appeal Limon’s case to the Kansas Supreme Court.

Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Cheryl Jacques said she hoped the ACLU would succeed.

“All people should be equal in the eyes of the law, yet this decision upholds penalties that are designed to target gay and lesbian people simply to show disapproval,” she said in a prepared statement.

“As the Supreme Court beautifully articulated in Lawrence v. Texas, mere disapproval is never sufficient reason to treat people differently simply for being gay,” she added. “We are hopeful that this case will be correctly decided by the higher courts.”

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