Last edited: September 06, 2004

Group Forms Task Force to Focus on Gay Rights

The Kansas City Star, September 2, 2004

By Mary Sanchez, The Kansas City Star

A Missouri constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage takes effect today, almost a month after it was overwhelmingly approved by voters.

On Wednesday, local gay and lesbian advocates announced a new task force with the goal of educating people on the need to support gay rights issues.

The LGBT Rights Project will work in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri.

The group’s first project is a recently completed handbook explaining what rights gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people do and do not have in Missouri and Kansas.

“Missouri is certainly a place with a lot of need in that there are other places, like California, that have very active and well-organized LGBT communities that have already achieved a lot,” said James Esseks, litigation director of the Lesbian and Gay Rights Project of the ACLU’s New York office.

Esseks was in the area to argue the case of Matthew R. Limon before the Kansas Supreme Court. Limon was convicted of criminal sodomy in Miami County for having sex with a 14-year-old boy.

Limon was 18 at the time and received a sentence of more than 17 years.

The ACLU is challenging the case because if Limon had had sex with an underage girl, his sentence could have been one year and three months.

“In the Limon case we are not saying that Kansas can’t make it a crime to have sex with a teenager,” Esseks said. “Of course they can. But they can’t make it a different crime if you are straight rather than if you are gay.”

Kansas is arguing that it can punish a person more harshly when underage sex involves homosexuality—even if the goal of the law is to promote traditional sexual roles—if it will protect children or the public health.

The ACLU was one of the earliest national organizations to work for the rights of gay people, said Lisa Brunner, a Kansas City lawyer who is chairwoman of the local project.

Work began more than a year ago to organize the new local gay rights task force, Brunner said.

Brunner was a co-author of the handbook The Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgendered People in Missouri. The handbook is available for $5 through the ACLU office, 3601 Main St., and may soon be available at some bookstores, Brunner said.

Five areas of law are discussed: community, employment and housing; schools; couples and marriage; parenting; and violence against homosexuals.

Brunner said she hoped the handbook would give people information such as whether students are allowed to take a same-sex date to the prom or whether a state allows adoption by gay couples.

Many people may simply be unaware of some gay rights issues, as opposed to being adamantly against gay people, Brunner said.

“They may not understand how important it is until they hear real stories about real people,” she said.

[Home] [News] [Kansas]