Surprisingly, a Kansas judge was able to see this clearly. Underage sex is underage sex, and the fact that a case may involve gay sex shouldn’t mean the punishment should be more severe.

ansas cannot punish illegal underage sex more severely if it involves homosexual conduct, the state’s highest court ruled unanimously Friday in a case watched by national groups on both sides of the gay rights debate.

The Supreme Court said in a unanimous ruling that a law that specified such harsher treatment and led to a 17-year prison sentence for an 18-year-old defendant “suggests animus toward teenagers who engage in homosexual sex.”

The defendant, Matthew R. Limon, has been behind bars since he was convicted in 2000 of performing a sex act on a 14-year-old boy. Had one of them been a girl, the state’s “Romeo and Juliet” law would have dictated a maximum sentence of 15 months.

The court said Limon should be resentenced within 30 days as if the law treated illegal gay sex and illegal straight sex the same, and it struck language from the law that resulted in the different treatment.

It’s clear that this kind of sentencing is crazy — what difference does it make if the parties are the same sex when a crime of this kind is committed?

Some may argue about what age should be considered the age of consent, but that’s not the issue here. Attorney General Phill Kline‘s office considers the defendant a predator because of two prior offenses of a similar nature — and required tough sentencing. Yeah, OK, so?

The problem is Kline’s office wants to treat an illegal homosexual act as somehow more depraved and deserving of a stiffer punishment for no apparent reason except homophobia — and that’s what was outlined in a lower court ruling. It said that the state could justify the harsher punishment as “protecting children’s traditional development, fighting disease or strengthening traditional values.”

* Also see: Kansas AG Seeks late-term abortion records, including sex life history

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding