Social Workers Speak Out on Behalf of Gay Teen Sentenced to 17 Years in Prison

Affiliate: ACLU of Kansas
August 9, 2004 12:00 am

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

TOPEKA, KS – In a friend-of-the-court brief filed today, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and its Kansas chapter are joining the American Civil Liberties Union in asking the Kansas Supreme Court to reverse the conviction of a teenager who is serving a prison sentence 13 times longer than he would have received if he were heterosexual.

“”The state claims that the much harsher sentence Matthew Limon received is justified for reasons that we as social workers know aren’t valid,”” said Dorthy Stucky Halley, president of the Kansas chapter of the NASW. She added, “”One’s sexual orientation could never justify 16 additional years in jail.””

In its brief, the 153,000 member organization of professional social workers debunks the state’s claims that the length of Limon’s sentence is justified because young people who engage in same-sex intimacy are so impressionable that they may be swayed into becoming gay. The NASW points to social science evidence that same-sex attractions surface much earlier in life – well before puberty – and that one gay sexual experience can’t make someone “”turn”” gay.

“”For professionals who are experts in social policy and who base their careers on human compassion to speak out on this young man’s behalf just goes to show how wrong it is for the state of Kansas to treat gay teenagers so much more harshly than their heterosexual peers,”” said Dick Kurtenbach, Executive Director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri.

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.

After the Kansas Court of Appeals upheld the conviction in January, the Kansas Supreme Court agreed to hear the case on August 31. The ACLU had taken Limon’s case back to the lower court after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the court 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.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is the largest membership organization of professional social workers in the world, with 153,000 members. NASW works to enhance the professional growth and development of its members, to create and maintain professional standards, and to advance sound social policies. Learn more about NASW by visiting its website at http://socialworkers.org, and about the Kansas chapter by visiting http://knasw.com.

The American Civil Liberties Union is our nation’s guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country. The ACLU is non-profit and non-partisan. Our membership has grown from a roomful of civil liberties activists at our founding in 1920 to an organization of more than 400,000 members and supporters, with local offices that cover every state in the nation. The Lesbian and Gay Rights Project is a special division of the ACLU that was founded in 1986. The goal of the Project is equal treatment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. That means no discrimination by government, no discrimination in employment, housing, schools and public places, and fair treatment of LGBT families and relationships.

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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