File under 'Justice For All.' Via Salon. Remind yourself that this is the year 2005, and not, say, 1762.
On Feb. 16, 2000, Matthew Limon gave his boyfriend a blowjob and got himself a 17-year prison sentence. The boys were residents at the Lakemary Center, a school for developmentally delayed youngsters in Paola, Kan. It's generous, perhaps, to call them boyfriends. What they did was more akin to sexual experimentation, two boys in a dormitory at night, messing around. Matthew had just turned 18 the week before, and his partner was just shy of his 15th birthday. The younger boy, identified only as M.A.R., consented to the sex, but changed his mind. As soon as he asked Matthew to stop, Matthew did, and M.A.R. has always been steadfast in his statement that what happened was consensual. How the police were brought in, why they were called, isn't clear. Someone from the center complained and the trial was based on stipulated facts — one paragraph stating that on that night in February, the boys engaged in consensual oral sex. That single paragraph was the basis for the 17-year sentence.
Kansas' statutory rape law prohibits "criminal sodomy" (including oral sex) with teenagers younger than 16. If the object of Matthew's affection had been female, however, Kansas would have afforded him the benefit of its romantically named "Romeo and Juliet" statute, designed precisely for kids like him, kids who have consensual sex with other kids. In Kansas, and in many other states, when two teenagers have heterosexual sex, even the dreaded sodomy, the penalties are relatively mild. If Matthew had had consensual sex with a girl, and the state had prosecuted him at all, the longest sentence they could have given him was 15 months. Instead, because Matthew had sex with another boy, and only because he had sex with another boy, he has spent the past five years in Ellsworth Correctional Facility in central Kansas.
The Supreme Court has directed the state court to take another look at the case in light of Lawrence v. Texas, which I wrote about earlier this month. Meanwhile, Limon is still behind bars — no picnic for anyone, much less for a young man convicted of a gay sex offense.
Young men like Matthew are prime targets in jail. Gay prisoners are more than twice as likely to be the victims of rape in prison, and young gay men are particularly vulnerable. Worse, the rate of HIV infection among the prison population is higher than in the general population, so prison rape carries with it the added risk of HIV transmission.
I wonder if the men and women in the DA's office are well and truly proud of themselves for having prosecuted Limon to the full extent of the law — before he could strike again with more dastardly acts of pleasuring willing recipients.