Last edited: February 01, 2004

Gay, Lesbian Advocates Dismayed by Ruling

Topeka Capital-Journal, January 31, 2004
616 SE Jefferson Street, Topeka, KS 66607
Fax: 785-295-1230

By Carl Manning, The Associated Press

Supporters of gay and lesbian rights expressed disappointment Friday with an appeals court’s ruling that having sex with children can be punished more harshly when it involves homosexual acts, while those who support Kansas’ anti-sodomy law praised the decision.

In its 2-1 decision, the Kansas Court of Appeals upheld the sentence of more than 17 years for Matthew R. Limon for having sex with an underage boy in 2000. Had his victim been an underage girl, he would have faced no more than one year and three months behind bars.

“There is a rational basis to make a difference between heterosexual crime and homosexual crime, dealing with the impact of the crime on the victim,” said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Thomas More Law Center.

But Susan Sommer, attorney for Lambda Legal in New York, said, “This is incredibly disappointing and I hope it is going to be a short-lived decision.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented Limon, planned to appeal to the Kansas Supreme Court.

It is the second time the appeals court upheld Limon’s sentence. It did so first in 2002, but the U.S. Supreme Court returned the case in June after it struck down laws banning gay sex between consenting adults.

The ACLU had hoped the appeals court would declare the difference in sentencing represented unconstitutional discrimination. But the judges said the Supreme Court decision didn’t apply to sex acts involving children.

They said legislators could justify differing penalties for heterosexual versus homosexual sodomy in plenty of ways, including higher health risks or an attempt to “encourage and preserve the traditional sexual mores of society.”

Sommer, on the winning side of Supreme Court case, said, “These are the kinds of archaic arguments that had been trotted out in the past to justify sodomy laws and other forms of discrimination.”

Attorney General Phill Kline, whose office fought to keep Limon in prison, said the decision upholds lawmakers’ authority to enact legislation based on morality.

“Not only did we win a victory as it relates to the Legislature and their authority in sentencing, but we also won a broad victory in protecting the institution of marriage, as well as protecting laws which serve to protect children from predatory sexual behavior,” he said.

Thompson agreed the court was correct, adding that “the Legislature developed this difference in punishment because they wanted to discourage behavior between adults and children that deviates from our society’s traditional sexual mores.”

Mike Farmer, Kansas Catholic Conference executive director, said he was pleased with the ruling, adding, “The church always has felt that sex outside of marriage is wrong. It is a very clear teaching of the church.”

Tiffany Muller, who heads the Equal Justice Coalition in Topeka, said she was shocked by the decision.

“This is a chance for Kansas to review the law and have it apply fairly and equally to all people, and I’m disappointed they didn’t take advantage of that opportunity,” Muller said.

Matt Foreman, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force executive director, called the ruling “appalling, illogical and hateful.”

“There is no way to explain this decision other than profound disdain and contempt for gay people,” he said. “I am really shocked that in this day and age a court of appeals could issue a decision like this, especially in light of the Supreme Court decision.”

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