ACLU Asks Kansas Supreme Court to Drop 17-Year Prison Sentence of Gay Teenager

Affiliate: ACLU of Kansas
June 24, 2004 12:00 am

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TOPEKA, KS – In a brief filed today, the American Civil Liberties Union asked the Kansas Supreme Court to reverse a 17-year conviction for a teenager who would have only had to serve 15 months if he were heterosexual.

“”In America, all people are supposed to be treated the same under the law, but because he’s gay Matthew Limon was sentenced to 13 times longer than another person would have to serve,”” said Tamara Lange, Limon’s attorney from the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. “”We hope that the Court will agree that the state of Kansas should treat all its citizens equally.””

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.

“”As we’ve said all along, the punishment Matthew Limon received shouldn’t be any different from that anyone else would have been given for the same offense,”” said Dick Kurtenbach, Executive Director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri. “”This young man has already served three and a half years longer than a heterosexual teen would have, and he deserves a chance at rebuilding his life.””

The papers filed today in support of Limon’s appeal argue that the “”Romeo and Juliet”” law violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection guarantees. The Kansas Supreme Court agreed last month to hear the case after the Kansas Court of Appeals upheld the conviction in January. Limon’s case had landed back before the lower court after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered it to reconsider the matter in light of the Supreme Court’s decision last summer in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down all same-sex-only sodomy laws.

Under the Kansas “”Romeo and Juliet”” 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.””

A backgrounder on the case is available online at: /LesbianGayRights/LesbianGayRights.cfm?ID=14476&c=41

More information on how the U.S. Supreme Court sent this case back to the Kansas Court of Appeals can be read here: /node/14204

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