Last edited: August 10, 2004

Social Workers Argue for Jailed Gay Teen, August 9, 2004

By Newscenter Staff

Topeka, Kansas—The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and its Kansas chapter today called on the Kansas Supreme Court to reverse the conviction of a teenager who is serving a prison sentence 13 times longer than he would have received if he were heterosexual.

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.

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.

“The state claims that the much harsher sentence Matthew Limon received is justified for reasons that we as social workers know aren’t valid,” said Dorthy Stucky Halley, president of the Kansas chapter of the NASW. She added, “One’s sexual orientation could never justify 16 additional years in jail.”

In a friend of the court brief, the 153,000 member organization of professional social workers attacks the state’s claims that the length of Limon’s sentence is justified because young people who engage in same-sex intimacy are so impressionable that they may be swayed into becoming gay. The NASW brief points to social science evidence that same-sex attractions surface much earlier in life—well before puberty—and that one gay sexual experience can’t make someone “turn” gay.

In June the ACLU also filed a similar brief on Limon’s behalf. The brief argues that the “Romeo and Juliet” law violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection guarantees.

The court has given no indication when it might deliver a ruling in the case.

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