Last edited: February 14, 2005

Matthew Limon Petitions High Court

The Data Lounge, January 17, 2003

TOPEKA, Ks.—Matthew Limon, a resident at a school for developmentally disabled young people, turned 18 in February of 2000 and sometime later, engaged in sexual activity with a boy three years his junior.

Matthew Limon

By all accounts, there was no violence, aggression or coercion involved; both parties were willing participants. But because the younger teen was not yet 15, Limon’s actions were considered criminal sodomy by the state of Kansas.

Had Limon been so engaged with a 14-year-old girl, he would have been in some trouble, facing a maximum sentence of some 15 months in prison. But because he was with another boy, young Matthew Limon’s crime was far more serious—he was sentenced to 17 years in prison.

Limon, who has already served three years of his term, is not challenging whether Kansas has the right to punish older teens for having sex with younger teens, says his lawyer, ACLU staff attorney Tamara Lange. "The unfairness in the Kansas rules is what he’s challenging," she said.

The U.S. Supreme Court will soon decide whether to hear arguments in Limon’s case.

The court has already agreed to hear a challenge to a Texas law that hands out stiffer penalties to gay people than heterosexuals for committing sodomy. With this case, the court will take another look at its 1986 decision in Bowers v. Hardwick that said the Constitution did not protect the rights of gays and lesbians to engage in sex in the privacy of their homes.

If the court also agrees to hear the Limon case, the decisions in both cases could amount to the most monumental rulings the high court has issued in the area of gay rights certainly since Bowers.

While rulings in either case could have significant consequences for the legal status of gays and lesbians in the United States, Limon has much more at stake than the plaintiffs in the Texas case. If the high court does not overturn the Kansas law that Limon in prison, he will remain there until he is 35 years old.

Scott Lively, director of the Pro-Family Law Center in California told ABC News it was a matter of the greater social good. "We feel sympathy for a young person facing a long prison sentence for this kind of act," he said, "but should that justify overruling a principle of law that has benefits for society?"

[Home] [News] [Kansas]