(CNSNews.com) - A homosexual advocacy group is applauding a Kansas Supreme Court decision Friday to overturn the criminal sodomy conviction of a teenager. The court issued its ruling relying on the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down sodomy laws and a friend-of-the-court brief citing medical studies about the transmission of HIV.
Lambda Legal filed a brief in the case State of Kansas v. Limon, signed by the Kansas Public Health Association, American Public Health Association, and several other health groups, to address the matter of public health in the case of 18-year-old Matthew Limon convicted of having oral sex with a 14-year-old boy.
"This decision relied on the Lawrence opinion to say that states must have a real reason for discriminating - other than moral disapproval," said Jon Davidson, legal director at Lambda Legal and an attorney on the Lambda Legal team that litigated the Lawrence case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
"The Kansas Supreme Court found that, in fact, the state had no real reason for leveraging a more harsh (sic) penalty (17 years versus 15 months) for Limon because the sexual conduct in question happened between two males," said Davidson in a statement.
Limon was sentenced to 17 years behind bars in 2000 under the state's "Romeo and Juliet" law. Had one of the teenagers been a girl, the law would have only required a 15-month jail sentence, the Associated Press reported.
According to the AP, Limon and the other boy both lived at a group home for the developmentally disabled. The boy was described by an official as mildly mentally retarded, while Limon was described as functioning at a slightly higher level, but not at the level of an 18-year-old.
The attorney general Phill Kline's office described Limon as a predator and pointed to two similar offenses on Limon's criminal record, the AP reported. Kline said such a pattern called for a tough sentence and that sentencing policy should be left up to the state Legislature.
In its ruling, the court, cited the medical studies, saying: "There is a near-zero chance of acquiring the HIV infection through the conduct which gave rise to this case, oral sex between males, or through cunnilingus.
"And although the statute grants a lesser penalty for heterosexual anal sex, the risk of HIV transmission during anal sex with an infected partner is the same for heterosexuals and homosexuals," the court added.
The state Supreme Court said the law which called for a harsher penalty for homosexual minors than for heterosexual minors "suggests animus toward teenagers who engage in homosexual sex."
"Essentially, risky behavior is risky behavior regardless of the gender of the two people engaging in the act," said Hayley Gorenberg, deputy legal director at Lambda Legal and author of the friend-of-the-court brief.
"This court has rejected the baseless idea that the risk of spreading a sexually transmitted disease including HIV, is higher just because the sex act involves two people of the same sex. This decision is great news for the HIV community in Kansas and goes a long way toward helping dispel myths," said Gorenberg.
"In fact, more than three out of five HIV-positive young people ages 13-19, which includes the age ranged (sic) covered by the law at stake in this case are young women. And as the court said, 'the gravest risk of sexual transmission for females is through heterosexual intercourse," concluded Gorenberg.
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