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Bush's Kind of Guy

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Message Gene C. Gerard
Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline isn't a household name yet, but he may be soon. In recent months Mr. Kline has shown that he is the type of judicial nominee that President Bush is looking for. Mr. Kline has that most valuable of assets that right-wing Republicans require of a nominee: a "conservative judicial philosophy." In recent months he has sought to deny poor women of the right to an abortion, despite federal law to the contrary. And he supported handing out a much harsher sentence to a gay teenager who engaged in consensual sex than to heterosexual adolescents.

In August Mr. Kline filed a lawsuit against Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius. The lawsuit alleges that by using Medicaid funds to provide abortions the state is depriving citizens, to include fetuses, of the right to life without due process of law. In his civil suit Mr. Kline defined conception as the beginning of life in order to bolster the argument that abortion violates an individual's right to life. The suit claims that, "At the very moment of fertilization, a new, unique and genetically distinct human being is formed, distinct from its host while dependent upon her."

President Bush and right-wing Republicans frequently claim that they don't want judges who will legislate from the bench. However, it's generally understood that what they really mean is they want judges who will legislate conservative principles from the bench. Mr. Kline certainly fits the bill. His lawsuit to prevent poor women in Kansas from receiving an abortion is clearly the result of conservative and evangelical politics. It certainly isn't based on the law.

Under federal law Medicaid provides for abortions in the event of rape, incest, or if the mother's life is in jeopardy. And when a state accepts Medicaid funding it must adhere to this requirement or it will loose its funding. Over the course of the last year Kansas received approximately $1.2 billion in federal funding for Medicaid recipients. Of that, $1,908 was spent to provide abortions for seven poverty-stricken women who were the victims of rape, incest, or whose lives were in danger.

Governor Sebelius recently filed a motion to dismiss Attorney General Kline's lawsuit in the Kansas courts. The motion correctly argues that the "time, money and resources wasted on [Mr. Kline's suit] should be saved to better improve health care of all Kansans." Hopefully, the courts will agree with this common sense approach to Mr. Kline's frivolous and politically motivated lawsuit.

Last week the Kansas Supreme Court struck down a ruling that Mr. Kline strongly supported, which allowed for a teenager who engaged in homosexual consensual sex to be sentenced to years in prison, while heterosexual teenagers could only be sentenced to months. In 2000 teenager Matthew R. Limon was convicted of having consensual sex with another, younger teenage boy. Both adolescents were developmentally disabled. A Kansas court sentenced Matthew to 17 years in prison. Attorney General Kline noted that this type of offense merited a tough sentence.

However, in 1999 Kansas adopted a so-called "Romeo and Juliet" law. This law specified that when an older teenager engages in consensual sex with a younger teenager, and the age difference is less than four years, the maximum prison sentence that can be applied to the older teenager is 15 months. However, the law specified that this only applied to heterosexual adolescents. When Matthew's attorney's appealed his conviction, on the grounds that stiffer penalties for homosexual teenagers than for heterosexual teenagers were unconstitutional, a Kansas appellate court disagreed.

Appeals court Judge Henry W. Green, Jr. ruled that the sentence given to Matthew encouraged "traditional sexual mores" and the "traditional sexual development of children," as well as marriage and procreation. Judge Green added that the ruling helped protect teenagers from sexually transmitted diseases, which he said were more common among homosexual teens that heterosexual teens. Another appeals court judge, Tom Malone, also supported the latter reasoning. Thankfully, the Kansas Supreme Court rejected the appeals court ruling.

The Kansas Supreme Court found that the U.S. Supreme Court's 2003 ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, in which the court found that homosexual sex between adults was not a crime, applied to Matthew Limon's case. Marla J. Luckert, a Kansas Supreme Court Justice, wrote the unanimous ruling which advised, "The moral disapproval of a group cannot be a legitimate state interest." The court found that the Romeo and Juliet law violated the Constitution's equal protection clause.

However, Attorney General Kline disagreed with the court. In a brief filed in support of Matthew's 17 year prison term Mr. Kline argued that reversing Matthew's sentence would threaten traditional marriage. He illogically warned that if the court ruled in Matthew's favor this would ultimately force Kansas to recognize bigamist and incestuous marriages, as well as other "less-than-desirable couplings." The latter presumably referred to marriages among homosexuals.

Mr. Kline might not be considered for a judicial vacancy now. But, he almost certainly will at some point in the future. He has a penchant for promoting a right-wing, evangelical Christian judicial philosophy. And that's exactly the type of nominee President Bush and conservative Republicans are seeking.
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_______________________________________________ Gene C. Gerard has taught history, religion, and ethics for 14 years at several colleges in the Southwest and is a contributing author to the book "Home Front Heroes: Americans during Wartime," by (more...)
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