Appeal Hearing Tuesday for Gay Teen Serving 16 Extra Years In Prison Under Biased 'Romeo and Juliet Law'

Affiliate: ACLU of Kansas
November 15, 2001 12:00 am

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ACLU asks court to strike Kansas law, says four other states have similar laws


TOPEKA, KS — A state appeals court will hear arguments Tuesday in the case of a teenager who is serving 16 years more in prison than he would if he were heterosexual, because Kansas’ so-called “”Romeo and Juliet Law”” (which makes sexual relations with a minor a lesser crime if both people are teens) only applies to opposite-sex relations.

The American Civil Liberties Union — which filed a friend-of-the-court brief charging that the law is unconstitutional because it singles out lesbian and gay youth for harsher prison sentences – said similar laws are on the books in California, Texas, Virginia and Alabama.

“”In Kansas, the only difference between one year in jail and 17 years is whether you’re gay,”” said Tamara Lange, the ACLU Lesbian & Gay Rights Project staff attorney working on the case. “”The laws in these other states vary, but they all punish gay teens more severely than straight teens for engaging in sexual activity.””

Matthew Limon received a 17-year prison sentence because just after he turned 18, he performed oral sex on a nearly 15-year-old male at a residential facility for developmentally disabled youth where they both lived in Miami County, Kansas. If he had instead performed oral sex on a 14-year-old female, he would have received 12 months in jail under the state’s law making sexual relations a minor offense if the younger teen is 14 to 16 years old, the older teen is under 19, the age difference is less than four years, there are no third parties involved, and if the two teenagers “”are members of the opposite sex.””

The case, State of Kansas v. Matthew R. Limon, is being heard by a three-judge panel of the Kansas state appeals court. Lisa Nathanson, Legal Director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri, co-authored the ACLU brief in the case and has provided assistance to Limon’s public defender.

The ACLU’s brief is online at:

More information on the case is available at: /node/14212

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