Last edited: July 11, 2004

Court Told to Drop Gay Teen’s Prison Term, June 24, 2004

By Newscenter Staff

Topeka, Kansas—The American Civil Liberties Union Thursday filed a brief supporting a Kansas gay teen sentenced to 17 years in prison for having sex with another teenager.

Matthew Limon is appealing a 206-month prison sentence he received shortly after turning 18 because while he was a resident at a private school for developmentally disabled youth he performed consensual oral sex on another teenager.

Limon would have served a maximum of 15 months in jail under the Kansas law had the other teenager been female. But because the state’s “Romeo and Juliet” law applies only to heterosexuals, Limon was convicted under the much harsher state sodomy law.

“In America, all people are supposed to be treated the same under the law, but because he’s gay Matthew Limon was sentenced to 13 times longer than another person would have to serve,” said Tamara Lange, Limon’s attorney from the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project.

“We hope that the Court will agree that the state of Kansas should treat all its citizens equally.”

The sex act for which Limon was convicted occurred just one week after his 18th birthday.

“As we’ve said all along, the punishment Matthew Limon received shouldn’t be any different from that anyone else would have been given for the same offense,” said Dick Kurtenbach, Executive Director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri.

“This young man has already served three and a half years longer than a heterosexual teen would have, and he deserves a chance at rebuilding his life.”

The papers filed today in support of Limon’s appeal argue that the “Romeo and Juliet” law violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection guarantees. The Kansas Supreme Court agreed last month to hear the case after the Kansas Court of Appeals upheld the conviction in January. Limon’s case had landed back before the lower court after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered it to reconsider the matter in light of the Supreme Court’s decision last summer in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down all same-sex-only sodomy laws.

Under the Kansas “Romeo and Juliet” law, consensual oral sex between two teens is a lesser crime if the younger teenager is 14 to 16 years old, if the older teenager is under 19, if the age difference is less than four years, if there are no third parties involved, and if the two teenagers “are members of the opposite sex.”

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