Last edited: December 17, 2003

Court Takes on Gay Teen Sex Case

Topeka Capital-Journal, December 3, 2003
616 SE Jefferson Street, Topeka, KS 66607
Fax: 785-295-1230

By Chris Grenz, The Capital-Journal

An appellate judge on Tuesday aggressively questioned a deputy attorney general who argued that the Legislature has the right to set policies regarding teen sex—even if lawmakers treat gays differently from heterosexuals.

Justice G. Joseph Pierron, the presiding judge of a three-judge Court of Appeals panel hearing the case of Limon v. Kansas, repeatedly questioned the legislative intent behind a law that lessens the penalty for teenagers who engage in voluntary sexual relations but specifically excludes homosexuals.

“I’m trying to find what the real reason was other than, ‘We just don’t like homosexuals,’” Pierron said at one point.

Matthew R. Limon was sentenced to more than 17 years in prison after he engaged in voluntary sexual relations with a 14-year-old boy just after Limon turned 18. Had Limon’s partner been female, Limon could have been sentenced to about one year in prison. Limon appealed his sentence all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which sent the case back to Kansas in light of its June ruling striking down laws that criminalize gay sex. The Kansas Court of Appeals panel may rule by February.

In Kansas, sexual relations for those under 16 are always illegal. But under the state’s “Romeo and Juliet Law,” the punishment is far less severe when the sexual relations are voluntary and between someone 14 to 16 and someone under 19—so long as the sex is between a male and female.

“The question here is whether there’s any justification for punishing sex with minors differently based on sex and sexual orientation,” said Tamara Lange, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented Limon. “We submit to the court that there is not.”

But Deputy Attorney General Jared Maag argued that the Legislature has the authority to determine the punishment for minors who engage in sexual acts in order to teach moral values to children, including “traditional family roles.”

Maag said the different penalties for same-sex teenage couples would promote marriage, encourage procreation and discourage the spread of disease.

But Pierron said the notion that the different penalties would encourage marriage and procreation was “utterly ridiculous.”

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