June 1, 2004 – The case of a teenager sentenced to seventeen years in prison for performing consensual oral sex on a younger classmate will go back to the Kansas Supreme Court in light of the US Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down same-sex only sodomy laws nationwide.
Matthew Limon, who has already served more than four years of his prison term, was convicted under a Kansas law that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says is discriminatory. Since Limon, who was eighteen at the time, engaged in oral sex with a fourteen year-old boy, he was given a punishment thirteen times longer than if he had performed the same act with a teen of the opposite sex, says the ACLU.
"Because he had sex with another male, Matthew Limon will be in prison until heâ€™s 35 years old," said Dick Kurtenbach, Executive Director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri, in a press release. Lawyers with the ACLU are representing Limon in his case. Kurtenbach called Limonâ€™s sentencing "unconstitutional" and said the ACLU is pleased the court is willing to reconsider it.
According to court documents provided by the ACLU, Limon was charged and convicted of criminal sodomy, which in Kansas includes acts of oral sex, for performing consensual fellatio on a fellow resident at a school for developmentally disabled youth in Miami County Kansas. At the time of the incident, Limon had just turned eighteen and the boy he had sex with was nearly fifteen.
Kansas has a law on the books, which according to a Kansas Appeals Court, "[recognizes] that consensual sexual activity between a young adult and a not-quite adult,
although wrong, is not as criminal as sexual activity between persons farther apart in age."
According to the ACLU, this so-called "Romeo and Juliet law" provides for comparatively mild criminal penalties for "â€¦ voluntary sexual intercourse, sodomy or lewd fondling or touching with a child who is 14 years of age but less than 16 years of age and the offender is less than 19 years of age and less than four years of age older than the child and the child and the offender are the only parties involved and are members of the opposite sex."
All else being equal, had Limon been convicted for performing oral sex on a female, he would have received a maximum sentence of fifteen months. However, since the Romeo and Juliet law does not apply to teenagers convicted of having sex with someone of the same sex, Limon was convicted under Kansasâ€™ criminal sodomy law, which provides for much harsher sentences and labels offenders as child molesters. Thus Limon was sentenced to seventeen years in jail plus five years of post-release supervision, and he must register as a sex offender upon release.
This is the second time the Kansas Supreme Court will review Limonâ€™s case. The first was in 2002 when the Court refused to consider his argument that he is being discriminated against on the basis of his sexual orientation. The ACLU then appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which handed the case back to the Kansas Supreme Court, directing them to reconsider Limonâ€™s case in light of the High Courtâ€™s ruling last summer in Lawrence v. Texas.