FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TOPEKA, KS – Arguing that an appeals court erred gravely in upholding a 17-year prison sentence for a bisexual teenager, the American Civil Liberties Union today asked the Kansas Supreme Court to rehear the case of Matthew Limon.
“Matthew Limon would be out of prison by now if he were heterosexual, yet Kansas law dictates that he must stay behind bars until he’s 35 years old,” said Dick Kurtenbach, Executive Director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri. “To say one person must serve a sentence 13 times longer than another person would for the same crime because of his sexual orientation not only violates established equal protection law – it’s simply and unequivocally wrong.”
In three separate opinions on January 30, the Kansas Court of Appeals upheld the state’s discriminatory “Romeo and Juliet” law, which gives much lighter sentences to heterosexual teenagers who have sex with younger teens, but specifically excludes gay teenagers. In the Court of Appeals, presiding Judge Pierron recognized that the “blatantly discriminatory sentencing provision does not live up to American standards of equal justice,” but he was outvoted by the other two judges on the panel.
The case had landed back before the appeals 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 same-sex-only sodomy laws.
“The Equal Protection Clauses of the United States and Kansas Constitutions make it clear that the state can’t have different sets of rules for straight people and gay people,” said Tamara Lange, Limon’s attorney from the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. “We’re hopeful that the Kansas Supreme Court will see this and make state law apply fairly and equally to everyone.”
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.”
A backgrounder on the case is available online at: /LesbianGayRights/LesbianGayRights.cfm?ID=14476&c=41
The Kansas Court of Appeals decision can be read in its entirety at: http://www.kscourts.org/kscases/ctapp/2004/20040130/85898.htm
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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