Last edited: January 02, 2005

ACLU Appeals Teen Sex Case to High Court / Network, October 10, 2002

By Ann Rostow

SUMMARY: The ACLU asked the Supreme Court to review the case of a young man sentenced to 17 years in prison for consensual oral sex with another teen.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday, asking the court to review the case of Matthew Limon, a young man sentenced to 17 years in a Kansas prison for having consensual oral sex with another teen-age boy.

Kansas law prohibits various sexual scenarios, and has a special category for sex with a person between 14 and 16. Adults breaching this criminal sodomy section face harsh penalties, but Kansas lawmakers carved out some breathing space for youthful miscreants, provided they are 18 or under, and within four years of age of their consensual partner. Called the “Romeo and Juliet” law, the provision limits the penalty for teen sex to 15 months in jail, and does not require the perpetrator to register as a sex offender.

But the “Romeo and Juliet” law only applies to heterosexual teenagers.

About a week after his 18th birthday, Matthew Limon talked a fellow student at the Lakemary Center for developmentally disabled children into letting him perform oral sex. The younger boy, just a month shy of his 15th birthday, eventually asked Limon to stop, which he did. When the situation came to the attention of authorities, Limon was charged as an adult, under the harshest version of the statute.

Because Limon had a similar incident in his juvenile record, he drew a sentence of 206 months in prison, followed by 60 months of post- release supervision. He will also have to register as a sex offender.

Limon’s lawyers challenged the sentence, arguing that the different penalties for similarly situated teens violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Kansas and U.S. constitutions. But last February, the Kansas Court of Appeals upheld the sentencing court, relying heavily on the 1986 U.S. Supreme Court sodomy ruling in Bowers v. Hardwick.

By declining to review the case a few months later, the Kansas Supreme Court passively added its weight to the Court of Appeals reasoning.

“The impact of Bowers on our case is obvious,” wrote the Court of Appeals in reference to the high court’s 1986 opinion upholding Georgia’s sodomy law. “The U.S. Supreme Court does not recognize homosexual behavior to be in a protected class … therefore there is no denial of equal protection when that behavior is criminalized or treated differently. … It should be noted that Bowers was a 5-4 decision,” the opinion continued. “However, there is no present indication that the decision would be different today.”

The U.S. Supreme Court will have a chance to take their present day views on sodomy and equal protection out of the realm of speculation by accepting the ACLU’s petition in Limon, or alternatively, by agreeing to review the Texas sodomy case, Lawrence and Garner v. Texas, filed in July.

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