Kansas v. Limon: Case Background
- Matthew Limon is a young man who has been diagnosed in the intellectual range between “borderline intellectual functioning” and “mild mental retardation.”
- In February of 2000, Matthew 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 Matthew’s 18th birthday, Matthew performed consensual oral sex on the other teenager, who was nearly 15 years old – three years, one month and a few days younger than Matthew.
- Kansas has a so-called “Romeo and Juliet” law (K.S.A. § 21-3522) that makes the penalty for statutory rape less severe when the case involves two teenagers. The “Romeo and Juliet” law reads: “(a) Unlawful voluntary sexual relations is engaging in voluntary: (1) sexual intercourse; (2) sodomy; or (3) lewd fondling or touching with a child who is 14 years of age but less than 16 years of age and the offender is less than 19 years of age and less than four years of age older than the child and child and the offender are the only parties involved and are members of the opposite sex.”
- Because the “Romeo and Juliet” law excludes gay people, Matthew was charged with criminal sodomy instead under K.S.A. § 21-3505(a)(2).
- Before his trial in June 2000, Matthew’s attorneys moved to dismiss the sodomy charge, arguing that the “Romeo and Juliet” law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment by discriminating based on a defendant’s sex and sexual orientation. The court disagreed, and Matthew was convicted of criminal sodomy based on what everyone agreed was a consensual sexual encounter.
- Matthew received a sentence of 206 months (17 years and two months) in prison, when a heterosexual teenager with the same record would serve a maximum of 15 months for the same offense. Unlike a heterosexual teenager, he also must register as a sex offender and undergo 60 months of post-release supervision. Matthew appealed his case through the Kansas courts, lost, and asked the United States Supreme Court to hear his appeal in 2002.
- The Kansas Court of Appeals had upheld Matthew’s conviction and sentence, based on Bowers v. Hardwick, the 1986 U.S. Supreme Court case that had upheld anti-gay sodomy laws. On June 26, the Court decided Lawrence v. Texas and overturned Bowers, striking down sodomy laws nationwide. The next day, the Supreme Court vacated the decision upholding Matthew’s conviction and sentence and remanded his appeal for reconsideration in light of Lawrence. The Kansas Court of Appeals again turned down Matthew’s appeal in January of 2004.
- On August 31, 2004, the ACLU argued the case for a second time before the Kansas Supreme Court.
- Matthew Limon has now been in prison for over five and a half years, already four years and five months longer than a heterosexual teenager would have served for the same offense. If he were heterosexual, he would have been released in May of 2001. He is not set to be released until April of 2017, when he will be 36 years old.
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