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Two Rulings Support the Rights of LGBTQ Youth

Recently, two separate court rulings have supported the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth.  In California , a federal court found that students have an expectation of privacy from their schools, even when it involves a student's sexual orientation.  And the Kansas Supreme Court found that the state cannot punish underage sex simply because it involves two people of the same gender.

The California case was brought on behalf of Charlene Nguon by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).  Nguon, a senior in the Orange County 's Garden Grove Unified School District, claimed that the school district violated her constitutional right to privacy when her principal told her parents that she was a lesbian.  In addition to outing her to her parents, the principal also suspended her for a week and asked her to leave the school after Nguon showed affection to her girlfriend on school grounds.1

The school district had sought to have the case dismissed on the grounds that Nguon had no expectation of privacy regarding her sexual orientation because she was openly gay at school.2 The U.S. District rejected this argument, and the ruling allows Nguon's suit to go forward. 

Christine P. Sun, a lawyer for the ACLU who represented Nguon stated, “we are pleased that the court recognized that the school does not have the automatic right to disclose a student's sexual orientation just because that student is out of the closet to his or her friends at school.  Coming out is a very serious decision that should not be taken away from anyone, especially from students who may be put in peril if they live in an unsupportive home.”3

Nguon's lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, asks the district to establish multiple measures to protect the privacy of its students, and asks for other measures to protect LGBTQ students from discrimination.

In Kansas, the state Supreme Court found that Kansas cannot punish underage sex more severely simply because it involves minors of the same gender.  This case centered on Matthew R. Limon who has been imprisoned since 2000 when Limon, who had just turned 18, was found engaging in sex with a 14-year old male and was convicted of statutory rape.

If he had been found with a 14-year old female, the state's “Romeo and Juliet” law would have protected him.  “Romeo and Juliet” laws lessen the penalty for statutory rape when it involves two consenting minors.  However, this law does not apply to same-sex couples.  Mr. Limon is currently serving a 17-year prison sentence; if the “Romeo and Juliet” law had applied the maximum penalty would have been 15 months.4

The court found that the state did not have a legitimate interest in treating same-sex sexual behavior among minors differently.  “Moral disapproval of a group cannot be a legitimate state interest,” writes Justice Maria Luckert in the unanimous ruling.  She writes further, “the statute inflicts immediate, continuing and real injuries that outrun and belie any legitimate justification that may be claimed for it.”5 As a result of the ruling, Mr. Limon will be released from jail.

References

  1. “Court: High Schools Can't Out Gay Pupils,” Gay.com, 1 December 2005, accessed 02 December 2005, <http://www.gay.com/>.
  2. Seema Mehta, “Ruling Protects Students' Privacy,” LA Times, 2 December 2005, accessed 2 December 2005, <http://www.latimes.com/>.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Kansas Statute 21-3522.
  5. John Hanna, “Court Rules Kansas Can't Single Out Gay Sex,” Associated Press¸ 21 October 2005.

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