|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE |
TOPEKA, KS - The Kansas Supreme Court today unanimously struck down part of a law that sent a gay teenager to prison for over 17 years, when a heterosexual teen would have served only 15 months for the same act. The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented Matthew Limon in his appeal, applauded the decision declaring that Kansas's so-called ""Romeo and Juliet"" law violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution.
""As of today, Matthew Limon has already served four years and five months longer than a heterosexual teenager would have received for the same act. He has long since paid his debt to society, and we're thrilled that he will be going home to his family soon,"" said Lisa Brunner of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri's LGBT Task Force. ""Justice has been a long time coming in this case.""
In February of 2000, Limon and another male teenager were both students at the same 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. Because Kansas's so-called ""Romeo and Juliet"" law gives much lighter sentences to heterosexual teenagers who have sex with younger teens but specifically excludes gay teenagers, Limon was sentenced to 17 years in prison. A heterosexual teenager with the same record would serve no longer than 15 months for the same offense.
Today's decision vacates Limon's sentence and conviction and declares the part of the ""Romeo and Juliet"" law that treats gay teens differently from heterosexual teens to be unconstitutional. The case has a long history. The ACLU appealed Limon's sentence and conviction to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003. The U.S. Supreme Court ordered the Kansas Court of Appeals to reconsider the matter in light of the decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down all same-sex-only sodomy laws. After the Kansas Court of Appeals narrowly upheld the conviction early last year, the Kansas Supreme Court heard the case in August of 2004.
""Our Constitution demands equal protection for all citizens, and there is nothing equal about the way the state of Kansas has treated Matthew Limon until today,"" said Tamara Lange, a staff attorney with the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, which handled Limon's appeal before the Kansas Supreme Court. ""This decision makes the state of Kansas a fairer place for all its citizens.""
Limon is represented by the ACLU's Lesbian & Gay Rights Project and cooperating attorney Paige Nichols of Lawrence, Kansas.
Today's decision is available online at: www.kscourts.org/kscases/supct/2005/20051021/85898.htm
A backgrounder and other information about the case are available online at: www.aclu.org/LesbianGayRights/LesbianGayRights.cfm?ID=17682&c=100
This article by Kansas City's The Pitch newspaper has further background information on the case: www.pitch.com/issues/2004-01-22/feature.html/1/index.html