Supreme Court applies sodomy ruling to case involving a gay youth

BY Advocate.com Editors

June 28 2003 12:00 AM ET

In a testament to the effects of Thursday's landmark ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Lawrence v. Texas case, which effectively struck down sodomy laws across the nation, the high court on Friday ordered that the case of a young gay man be reheard by a Kansas appeals court for further consideration. The decision vacated Matthew Limon's sentence and instructed the Kansas court of appeals to review his case. By doing so, the high court further affirmed Thursday's mandate that states can no longer penalize the sexual conduct of gay people differently. Limon is serving a prison sentence that is 16 years longer than what he would have served had he been heterosexual because Kansas's so-called Romeo and Juliet Law--which makes sexual relations with a minor a lesser crime if both individuals involved are teens--applies only to opposite-sex relations. "The Romeo and Juliet Law, similar to the Texas law that was struck down yesterday, treats lesbian and gay people much more harshly than it does straight people who engage in the same behavior, and states can no longer get away with that kind of unequal treatment," said James Esseks, litigation director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, which is representing Limon. "We hope that this is the first of many wrongs that yesterday's ruling will correct."

Limon is appealing the 17-year prison sentence he received for having sex with an underage male. Shortly after Limon turned 18, he performed consensual oral sex on a nearly 15-year-old male at a residential school for developmentally disabled youths, at which both young men resided, in Miami County, Kan. If instead he had performed oral sex on a female of the same age, he would have been ordered to serve just 12 months in jail. "Until yesterday, Matthew Limon was facing the likelihood of being in prison until he was 36 years old, while he would have been released before turning 20 if he were heterosexual," said Esseks. "This is a great first step toward correcting the massive injustice that has been done to Matthew Limon."

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