Topeka, Kansas--The state Supreme Court on October 21 struck down a law that penalized underage sex more harshly if it was between members of the same sex.
The decision came in the case of Matthew R. Limon, who was convicted in 2000 of performing oral sex on a 14-year-old who lived in the same group home for developmentally disabled people.
Limon had turned 18 just before the consensual activity. He was convicted of criminal sodomy, since Kansas law prohibits any sexual activity involving a minor under 16 years of age. He was sentenced to 17 years in prison.
However, legislation enacted in 1999, dubbed the �Romeo and Juliet law,� provides for lower penalties if the older of the two is under age 19--and the partners are of opposite sexes. Had his partner been a teenage girl instead of a boy, Limon would have faced a maximum of 15 months.
He has served over 5� years so far.
Attorneys for Limon argued that the law was illegally targeting homosexual behavior, while the state countered that it promoted �traditional� development of teenagers.
A Kansas appeals court ruled in favor of the state, saying that the harsher treatment could be justified.
Limon�s attorney�s appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case, and then to the U.S. Supreme Court.
One day after the landmark 2003� Lawrence v. Texas ruling in which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state sodomy laws, the high court sent the case back to the Kansas courts.
Limon had also been caught twice before experimenting sexually with other boys.
According to an official, the then-14-year old, identified only as M.A.R., is mildly mentally retarded. Limon, while operating at a higher level than M.A.R., was not functionally an 18-year-old at the time.
�The statute inflicts immediate, continuing and real injuries that outrun and belie any legitimate justification that may be claimed for it,� wrote Justice Maria Luckert. �Moral disapproval of a group cannot be a legitimate state interest.�
Phill Kline, the state�s attorney general, indicated that his office would not appeal the ruling.
Limon will be resentenced as if M.A.R. had been of the opposite sex.
�We are very happy that Matthew will soon be getting out of prison,� said James Esseks of the American Civil Liberties Union�s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. �We are sorry there is no way to make up for the extra four years he spent in prison simply because he is gay.�
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