Last edited: December 08, 2004

Court Rejects Challenge to Sodomy Law

Topeka Capital-Journal, February 5, 2002
616 SE Jefferson Street, Topeka, KS 66607
Fax: 785-295-1230

By John Hanna, The Associated Press

The state Court of Appeals has rejected a challenge to a Kansas law punishing young adults who have sex with underage partners more harshly if those partners are of the same gender.

A three-judge panel ruled against Matthew R. Limon, who was seeking to overturn his sentence of 17 years and two months in prison for having sex with an underage boy in February 2000, when Limon was 18.

Had either Limon or the other boy been a girl, the maximum sentence would have been one year and three months in prison.

The case attracted the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union, which argued the law discriminates against homosexuals, and the DKT Liberty Project, a Washington group with a Libertarian philosophy, which said it represented gender discrimination.

In an unsigned opinion issued Friday, Appeals Judges Henry W. Green Jr., David S. Knudson and G. Joseph Pierron Jr. said the U.S. Supreme Court has held that states may treat homosexual acts differently from heterosexual ones.

"Neither does this decision deal with the wisdom of the statute involved, as that is left to the Legislature in our governmental system, with its separation of powers," the appeals panel wrote.

Limon still may appeal the decision to the Kansas Supreme Court.

In 1999 and 2000, Limon was a resident of the Lakemary Center, a school for developmentally disabled young people in Paola.

In February 2000, he performed a sex act with another boy, identified only as M.A.R., who was one month shy of his 15th birthday. Initially, their encounter was consensual.

The year before the incident, legislators had enacted what became known as the "Romeo and Juliet" law. Named for Shakespeare’s fictional young lovers, its goal was to separate consensual teen-age sexual relationships from cases in which older adults exploited young children.

It lessened the penalties for unlawful but consensual sexual relations where one person is under 19 and the other person is between 14 and 16, if their ages are less than four years apart.

The law also ended the requirement that the people convicted in such cases register as sex offenders with local law enforcement officials after their prison terms end.

However, the law applies only when the young sexual partners are of the opposite sex.

Limon was charged and convicted by a judge under an older criminal sodomy law. His juvenile record contained a similar offense from 1998, making his sentence in the latest case more severe.

The ACLU has said four states have laws that could have a similar result under the same circumstances: Alabama, California, Texas and Virginia.

"The argument that it is not made at homosexuals cannot be made with a straight face," the appeals panel said in its decision.

However, the Court of Appeals judges cited a 1986 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld a Georgia law criminalizing consensual sodomy.

"There is no present indication that the decision would be different today," the Kansas judges wrote.

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