Kansas Supreme Court to Hear ACLU Appeal of 17-Year Prison Sentence for Gay Teenager
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TOPEKA, KS - The Kansas Supreme Court has agreed to consider the American Civil Liberties Union's appeal on behalf of a gay teenager who was sentenced to 17 years in prison for consensual oral sex, the ACLU said today. Matthew Limon has already been in prison for four years and three months - three and a half times longer than the maximum sentence he would have received if he were heterosexual.
""The only reason Matthew Limon is still in prison today is because he's gay,"" said Tamara Lange, a staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, which represents Limon. She added, ""The Kansas Supreme Court has an opportunity to correct the grave injustice that has been done to this young man and the mockery that his sentence makes of the equal protection guarantees in the Constitution.""
In February of 2000, Limon and another male teenager were both students at the same co-ed residential school for developmentally disabled youth in Miami County, Kansas. A week after Limon's 18th birthday, he performed consensual oral sex on the other teenager, who was nearly 15 years old - three years, one month and a few days younger than Limon. Limon was convicted under Kansas's ""Romeo and Juliet"" law, which gives much lighter sentences to heterosexual teenagers who have sex with younger teens, but specifically excludes gay teenagers.
""Because he had sex with another male, Matthew Limon will be in prison until he's 35 years old,"" said Dick Kurtenbach, Executive Director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri. ""For Kansas to sentence a gay person 13 times more harshly than it would a heterosexual for the same offense is clearly unconstitutional, and we're pleased the Court is willing to reconsider this young man's sentence.""
This is the second time that his case has been sent to the Kansas Supreme Court for review. The first time, in July of 2002, the court refused to consider Limon's case and the ACLU asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear it. The High Court sent the case back to a Kansas appeals court, ordering it to reconsider in light of its decision last summer in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down same-sex-only sodomy laws. In January, the appeals court again upheld Limon's conviction.
The earliest that the Kansas Supreme Court is likely to hear arguments in the case will be in August.
Under the Kansas law, consensual oral 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 the sex is consensual, if there are no third parties involved, and if the two teenagers ""are members of the opposite sex.""
A backgrounder on the case is available online at: /LesbianGayRights/LesbianGayRights.cfm?ID=14476&c=41