Appearing before the Kansas Court of Appeals on Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union urged the court to follow the U.S. Supreme Court's recent gay rights case, Lawrence v. Texas, and reduce the sentence of a young man serving an additional 15 years in prison solely because he is gay. The case was sent back by the U.S. Supreme Court to the Kansas court for reconsideration immediately following its decision in Lawrence this past June.
"The Supreme Court made it very clear that you can no longer punish someone differently for being gay," said Tamara Lange, a staff attorney with the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. "Yet Matthew Limon continues to sit in jail because when he was a teenager he had consensual sex with another male rather than a female. It is time for the Kansas 'Romeo and Juliet' law to be applied to Romeos and Romeos as well."
Limon is appealing a 206-month prison sentence he received shortly after turning 18, because while he was a resident at a private school for developmentally disabled youth, he performed consensual oral sex on another teenager. Limon would have served a maximum of 15 months in jail under the Kansas law had the other teenager been female. But because the "Romeo and Juliet" law applies only to heterosexuals, Limon was convicted under the much harsher state sodomy law.
Under the Kansas "Romeo and Juliet" law, consensual 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."
According to the ACLU, the Kansas "Romeo and Juliet" law is similar to the Texas law the U.S. Supreme Court struck with its Lawrence ruling because the Kansas law treats the sexual conduct of lesbian and gay people differently. The day after its decision in the Texas case, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated Limon's conviction and instructed the Kansas Court of Appeals to give it further consideration in light of its ruling on sexual intimacy in Lawrence.