Recent Issues Concerning Gays:
Extra prison time for gay criminals, prohibition on adoption for gays, A pattern of abuse, and Matt Shepard, Gay survey raises a new question
Defying U.S. Supreme Court, Kansas Court Upholds 17-Year Prison Sentence of Bisexual Teenager
January 30, 2004
TOPEKA, KS -- The American Civil Liberties Union today deplored a Kansas appeals court ruling that it is constitutional to give a bisexual teenager a sentence 13 times longer than a straight teenager would receive for the same crime.
"The court's opinion in this case defies comprehension, and we intend to seek an appeal," said Dick Kurtenbach, Executive Director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri. "The U.S. Supreme Court ordered Kansas to reconsider this case in light of its holding last summer that the government can't have a different set of rules for gay people than it does for straight people. But the Kansas court's opinion is written as if Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down same-sex-only sodomy laws, had never even happened."
The two-to-one decision from the Kansas Court of Appeals today upholds the state's "Romeo and Juliet" law, which gives much lighter sentences to heterosexual teenagers who have sex with younger teens, but specifically excludes gay teenagers. In its decision, the Court gave three explanations for sentencing gays so much more severely: that doing so will reduce the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, that doing so encourages "traditional sexual mores," and that doing so promotes procreation and marriage.
"The Court's reasons for approving this law are absurd," said Tamara Lange, Limon's attorney from the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. "All young people should be entitled to protection from sexually transmitted diseases, and punishing gay kids more harshly ‘protects' no one. The Supreme Court made it very clear that ‘traditional sexual mores' are no longer a legitimate rationale for discriminating against gay people. To suggest that the state should give straight men a lighter sentence to encourage them to marry the 14- and 15-year-old girls they impregnate and support the children that result from their crimes is incomprehensible."
Matthew Limon is currently serving 17 years in prison, instead of the 13 to 15 months he would have faced if he were heterosexual. The Kansas law makes sexual relations with a minor a lesser crime if both people are teens, but it only applies to opposite-sex relations. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated Limon's conviction and instructed the Kansas Court of Appeals to give it further consideration in light of the historic ruling on sexual intimacy in Lawrence v. Texas. The "Romeo and Juliet" law, like the overturned Texas sodomy law, treats the sexual conduct of lesbian and gay people differently.
Under the Kansas law, consensual oral sex between two teens is a lesser crime if the younger teenager is 14 to 16 years old, if the older teenager is under 19, if the age difference is less than four years, if there are no third parties involved, and if the two teenagers "are members of the opposite sex."
ACLU Dismayed by 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Decision Upholding Florida's Anti-Gay Adoption Law
January 29, 2004
NEW YORK—The American Civil Liberties Union today said that is saddened by the decision by the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit to uphold a Florida law that prohibits gay people from adopting.
"We are deeply disappointed by the court's decision," said Matt Coles, Director of the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. "We think the court is wrong in believing that government can continue to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation after the Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas last summer. We think the court is wrong in thinking that the Constitution lets the government assume that sexual orientation has anything to do with good parenting. We are distressed that the court's decision will leave thousands of children without the homes and the parents they deserve."
"We intend to do everything we can to make sure that none of the children involved in this case are taken from their families," Coles added. "We are exploring the legal options and when we have decided what course of action to pursue we will release more details."
The ACLU brought the lawsuit on behalf of four gay men who would like to adopt in Florida but are prevented from doing so by a state law that ban lesbians and gay men from adopting. The law was passed in 1977 in response to Anita Bryant's infamous anti-gay campaign.
"We were hoping that the courts would perform one of their most important functions, namely protecting people from the prejudices of legislators that were written into law a quarter of a century ago," said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida. "If single people can adopt in Florida, if gay people can be foster parents and legal guardians, and if there are thousands of children languishing in foster care, there can be no justification for Florida's ban on gay adoptions other than impermissible prejudice and hostility toward gay people."
Even though the state prevents lesbian and gay men from adopting, it frequently relies on gay people to be foster parents to children in need of stable homes, Simon noted. According to the Florida's Department of Family and Children, there are over 3,400 children in Florida foster care who are in need of homes.
Two of the three families represented by the ACLU are raising Florida foster children. Steven Lofton and his partner Roger Croteau are raising five children, including three foster children from Florida. Although the Florida children -- two 16-year-olds and a 12-year-old -- have never known any other family, they cannot be adopted by Lofton or Croteau because of Florida's law. Wayne Smith and Dan Skahen have willingly taken in many foster children over the years and are now foster parents to six children. Doug Houghton has been the legal guardian of an 11-year-old boy for seven years. Even though the child's biological father wants Houghton to be the legal parent, Houghton can't adopt because of Florida's law.
Every mainstream child advocacy and mental health organization, including the Child Welfare League of America, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association and National Association of Social Workers, is opposed to excluding gay people from adoption. The Child Welfare League of America, Children's Rights, Inc., Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, National Center for Youth Law and the North American Council on Adoptable Children submitted a friend-of-the-court brief asking the court to strike down the ban.
MATT SHEPARD CASE
October 12, 1998
FORT COLLINS, Colorado (CNN) -- Authorities plan to file murder charges in Monday's death of Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student who was pistol-whipped and tied to a fence post five days ago in an attack denounced nationwide as a hate crime.
Shepard, 21, died from his injuries early Monday morning without regaining consciousness. He had been on full life support, Rulon Stacey, the chief executive officer of Poudre Valley Hospital, told reporters.
Shepard had been in a coma since bicyclists found him about 12 hours after he was tethered to the post in near-freezing temperatures outside Laramie, Wyoming, on Wednesday.
Four suspects were being held on a variety of charges. Aaron James McKinney, 22, and Russell Arthur Henderson, 21, both of Laramie, have been charged with attempted first degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated robbery by Albany County, Wyoming District Attorney Cal Rerucha.
The charges will be upgraded to first degree murder now that Shepard has died, said Sgt. Rob DeBree of the Albany County Sheriff's Office. Authorities also are expected to stiffen kidnapping charges against the two men.
The two men's girlfriends -- Chasity Vera Pasley, 20, and Kristen Leann Price, 18 -- were charged with being accessories after the fact.
Gay Survey Raises a New Question
By DAVID W. DUNLAP
SECTION: Section B; Page 8; Column 4; National Desk
October 18, 1994, Tuesday, Late Edition - Final The New York Times