A California ballot initiative calling for death to “sodomites” will most likely be making the rounds for signatures this summer, although it has little chance of gaining enough support to be put before voters.
The initiative, submitted to the attorney general’s office by Huntington Beach attorney Matt McLaughlin in February, is called the Sodomite Suppression Act and would mandate putting gay people to death “by bullets to the head or any other convenient method.” This penalty would be visited on “any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification.” The act would also provide that anyone who distributes “sodomistic propaganda” to a minor should “be fined $1 million per occurrence, and/or imprisoned up to 10 years, and/or expelled from the boundaries of the state of California for up to life.”
Although such a law would be “clearly unconstitutional,” LGBT-friendly California Attorney General (and U.S. Senate hopeful) Kamala Harris “may not have any choice” but to send the proposal on for the signature-gathering process, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
California law allows anyone to submit a ballot measure. After the sponsor has paid the required $200 fee, the attorney general must create a title and a summary of up to 100 words for the measure, then forward it to the secretary of state’s office so signature-gathering can begin. Harris is scheduled to have this ready by May 4, the Chronicle reports.
Harris’s staff has not responded to the Chronicle’s requests for comment on the measure, but legal experts told the paper the attorney general may not have the authority to reject it. “The statute is clear: that the office has to prepare a summary provided the proponents have paid $200 and followed the right procedures,” said attorney Robert Stern.
The state Supreme Court does have the power to keep unconstitutional measures off the ballot, the Chronicle reports, but it apparently has not been asked to weigh in. “Presumably the justices could locate a state constitutional provision that would discourage shooting people in the head,” the paper notes.
Meanwhile, state Sen. Ricardo Lara thinks the California Bar Association should consider revoking McLaughlin’s law license, and so do five other members of the state legislature’s LGBT Caucus, who last week filed a formal complaint with the bar, the Chronicle reports. “Such inciting and hateful language has no place in our discourse, let alone [our] state Constitution,” they said.
McLaughlin’s initiative has almost zero chance of qualifying for the ballot or being passed by voters. It would need about 365,000 signatures to qualify.