ACLU Asks Supreme Court to Strike Down Anti-Gay Kansas Law

Affiliate: ACLU of Kansas
October 10, 2002 12:00 am

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Calls 17-Year Sentence for Gay Youth Unconstitutional


WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today asked the Supreme Court to declare part of Kansas’s “”Romeo and Juliet Law”” unconstitutional because it gives gay teenagers much higher prison sentences than heterosexual teenagers who engage in identical consensual sexual activities.

Matthew Limon is appealing a 17-year prison sentence he got for performing consensual oral sex with a nearly-15-year-old male. Limon, who had turned 18 only a week before the incident, would have been sentenced to a maximum of 15 months if he and his partner had been members of the opposite sex, because the “”Romeo and Juliet Law”” applies only to heterosexuals.

“”Matthew Limon’s sentence isn’t different because of what he did – it’s only different because of who he is,”” said Tamara Lange, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, which represents Limon. “”We aren’t asking to change age-of-consent laws or to reduce sentences for sexual contact with minors, but we do believe that the law should apply equally to everyone.””

In papers filed today, the ACLU asked the Supreme Court to consider the constitutionality of Limon’s sentence. 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 4 years, if there are no third parties involved, and if the two teenagers “”are members of the opposite sex.””

“”Because he had sex with another boy instead of a girl, Matthew Limon will be behind bars until he’s 36 years old,”” said Matt Coles, the Lesbian and Gay Rights Project’s director. “”After that he will have to undergo five years of supervision, and he will be permanently branded a child molester – all for a consensual act with a boy who was only three years and a month younger. If he were heterosexual, he would have been out of jail long ago.””

Singling out gay teenagers for harsher punishment than heterosexuals receive for the same acts clearly violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the ACLU said in its brief.

The case is Limon v. Kansas, now awaiting action by the U.S. Supreme Court. The ACLU’s brief is online at: /node/36223

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