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Kansas case tests Lawrence's mettle

Kansas case tests Lawrence's mettle

Calling some of the state's justifications "utterly ridiculous," an appellate judge in Kansas has questioned whether the state can punish illegal sex more harshly when it involves two people of the same sex. Kansas Court of Appeals judge G. Joseph Pierron presided Tuesday over a three-judge appeals panel as it heard arguments in the case of Matthew R. Limon, whose conviction stems from sex acts in 2000 with a 14-year-old boy. Both were residents of a Paola group home for the developmentally disabled. Limon was 18 at the time. Convicted of criminal sodomy, Limon was sentenced to 17 years and two months in prison. Had Limon engaged in sex with an underage girl, he could have been sentenced to one year and three months in prison. "I'm just trying to come up with a reason, other than you don't like homosexuals," Pierron told Deputy Attorney General Jared Maag, who was representing the state. Maag argued that the state has broad latitude in making such distinctions to protect children from sex crimes. However, Tamara Lange, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney representing Limon, argued that the different treatment for similar criminal acts represents unconstitutional discrimination against gays and lesbians. Lange said only Texas has a similar provision in its laws against underage sex. The Kansas court rejected Limon's challenge in February 2002, but in June of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Texas's same-sex sodomy law with its ruling in Lawrence v. Texas and returned Limon's case to the Kansas state courts. The appellate court is expected to rule by February, and its decision can be appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court.

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