Kansas supreme court to hear appeal of gay teen's prison sentence

BY admin

May 28 2004 12:00 AM ET

The Kansas supreme court has agreed to consider the appeal of a gay teenager who was sentenced to nearly two decades in prison for consensual oral sex, according to a statement released by the American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday.

Matthew R. Limon was sentenced to 17 years for having sex with a 14-year-old boy in February 2000. Limon was 18 at the time, and he and the other male teen were students at a school for developmentally disabled youth in Miami County, Kan.

Under 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 four years or less, if the sex is consensual, if there are no third parties involved, and if the two teenagers "are members of the opposite sex." Such "Romeo and Juliet" laws exclude gay teens.

This is the second time that Limon's case has been sent to the Kansas supreme court for review. In July 2002, the court refused to consider the case, and the ACLU asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear it. The high court sent the case back to a Kansas appeals court, ordering it to reconsider in light of its decision last summer in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down sodomy laws. In January, the appeals court again upheld Limon's conviction.

"The only reason Matthew Limon is still in prison today is because he's gay," said Tamara Lange, a staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, which represents Limon. "The Kansas supreme court has an opportunity to correct the grave injustice that has been done to this young man and the mockery that his sentence makes of the equal protection guarantees in the Constitution."

The earliest that the Kansas supreme court is likely to hear arguments in the case will be in August.

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