ACLU Asks Kansas Court to Overturn 17-Year Prison Sentence of Bisexual Teenager

Affiliate: ACLU of Kansas
August 11, 2003 12:00 am

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TOPEKA, KS – Arguing that excluding gay teenagers from the Kansas “Romeo and Juliet” law is unconstitutional after the recent Supreme Court decision striking down sodomy laws, the American Civil Liberties Union today asked a state appeals court to free a bisexual teenager who is serving 17 years in prison for having oral sex with another young man.

Matthew Limon is appealing a 17-year prison sentence he received because shortly after he turned 18 he performed consensual oral sex on another teenager at a residential school for developmentally disabled youth where they both lived in Miami County, Kansas. If he had instead performed oral sex on a female of the same age, he would have received no more than 15 months in jail under the Kansas law. But because the “Romeo and Juliet” law applies only to heterosexuals, Limon was convicted under the much harsher state sodomy law.

“The Supreme Court clearly felt, as we do, that a great injustice has been done to Matthew Limon,” said Dick Kurtenbach, Executive Director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri. “Laws that punish lesbian, gay, and bisexual people far more harshly than heterosexuals for the same thing are simply discriminatory and wrong, and we hope that the Court of Appeals will agree.”

Limon is serving 17 years in prison, instead of the 13 to 15 months he would have faced if he were heterosexual. The Kansas law makes sexual relations with a minor a lesser crime if both people are teens, but it only applies to opposite-sex relations. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated Limon’s conviction and instructed the Kansas Court of Appeals to give it further consideration in light of the historic ruling on sexual intimacy in Lawrence v. Texas. The “Romeo and Juliet” law is similar to the Texas sodomy law because it treats the sexual conduct of lesbian and gay people differently.

“The Kansas court justified Matthew’s conviction on the basis that the Supreme Court had upheld anti-gay sodomy laws in its 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick ruling,” said Tamara Lange, Limon’s attorney from the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. “Now that Bowers has been overturned, the Kansas Court of Appeals should recognize that this young man should not spend more time in prison just because he’s bisexual.”

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 there are no third parties involved, and if the two teenagers “are members of the opposite sex.”

Following the Lawrence decision, many anti-gay laws could face similar legal challenges. The ACLU has developed “Get Busy, Get Equal,” a public education campaign designed to help lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people take advantage of the historic Supreme Court ruling to push for equality. To support the campaign, the ACLU has launched a new website, /getequal, that provides tools for fighting anti-gay discrimination, making schools safer for LGBT youth, and getting equality for LGBT relationships.

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