Last edited: December 14, 2003

ACLU Appears Before Kansas Appeals Court on Behalf of Youth Serving 15 Additional Years in Prison Because He is Gay

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), December 2, 2003
For Immediate Release
Contact: Chris Hampton, (212) 549-2673

TOPEKA, KS—Appearing before the Kansas Court of Appeals today, the American Civil Liberties Union urged the court to follow the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent gay rights case, Lawrence v. Texas, and reduce the sentence of a young man serving an additional 15 years in prison solely because he is gay. The case was sent back to the Kansas court for reconsideration by the Supreme Court immediately following its decision in Lawrence this past June.

“The Supreme Court made it very clear that you can no longer punish someone differently for being gay,” said Tamara Lange, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Lesbian & Gay Rights Project. “Yet Matthew Limon continues to sit in jail because when he was a teenager he had consensual sex with another male rather than a female. It is time for the Kansas ‘Romeo and Juliet’ law to be applied to Romeos and Romeos as well.” 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 “Romeo and Juliet” law applies only to heterosexuals, Limon was convicted under the much harsher state sodomy law. Under the Kansas law, consensual sex between two teens is a lesser crime if the younger teenager is 14 to 16 years old, if the older teenager is under 19, if the age difference is less than four years, if there are no third parties involved, and if the two teenagers “are members of the opposite sex.” According to the ACLU, the Kansas “Romeo and Juliet” law is similar to the Texas law the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in June in its historic decision in Lawrence v. Texas because the Kansas law treats the sexual conduct of lesbian and gay people differently. The day after its decision in the Texas case, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated Limon’s conviction and instructed the Kansas Court of Appeals to give it further consideration in light of its ruling on sexual intimacy in Lawrence. Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline has chosen to vigorously defend the law in the press and in court. In his brief, Kline makes several outrageous arguments, among them that the state should be able to punish gay teenagers more harshly under the “Romeo and Juliet” law because doing so would encourage heterosexual teenagers to marry. Kline also asserts that the discrimination is constitutional because it encourages unmarried teens to get pregnant. In statements to the press, Kline has said that changing the law would lead to bestiality and the destruction of marriage.

“Contrary to Attorney General Phill Kline’s many efforts to confuse the real issues behind this case, we’re not saying the state shouldn’t protect teens or punish those who break the law. We are only asking that the state treat gay teens the same as it does straight teens,” said Dick Kurtenbach, Executive Director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri. “Matthew Limon isn’t asking for a get-out-of-jail free card—he’s saying he should have been convicted and punished—under the Romeo and Juliet law.”

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