A California activist has a clever response to a proposed ballot initiative calling for death to gay people -- she's submitted an initiative of her own called the Intolerant Jackass Act.
"Any person, herein known as an 'Intolerant Jackass,' who brings forth a ballot measure that suggests the killing of gays and/or lesbians, whether this measure is called the Sodomite Suppression Act or is known by some other name, shall be required to attend sensitivity training for at least three (3) hours per month for twelve (12) consecutive months," the initiative reads in part. "In addition, the offender or 'Intolerant Jackass' must donate $5000 to a pro-gay or pro-lesbian organization."
Charlotte Laws, who mailed the initiative to the state attorney general's office Monday, is a straight woman who has worked in politics and entertainment, and who lately has become best known as an activist against "revenge porn" -- the practice of sharing sexually explicit photos of individuals without the subject's consent. She lives in Los Angeles.
Her initiative is a response to the Sodomite Suppression Act, a ballot measure submitted in February by Huntington Beach attorney Matt McLaughlin, which would mandate death "by bullets to the head or any other convenient method" for "any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for the purposes of sexual gratification."
"I felt that ridiculing this man was the best way to defuse his vicious proposal and take away his power," Laws tells The Advocate via email. "By filing the Intolerant Jackass Act, I am attempting to speak out against prejudice and hatred. It is important to fight injustice and intolerance. I want the world to know that Matt McLaughlin's wretched and small-minded perspective is in the minority. Most people in California are caring and loving individuals who welcome the LGBTQ community."
California law allows citizens to propose a ballot measure on just about any subject by submitting it to the attorney general's office and paying a $200 fee. After a 30-day public review period, the attorney general must publish a summary of the measure and allow the sponsor to begin gathering signatures to get it on the ballot. To qualify for the ballot, a measure must receive valid signatures from a number of voters equivalent to 5 percent of those who voted in the most recent gubernatorial election.
That would be over 365,000 signatures to qualify for this year's ballot, which McLaughlin's measure is unlikely to receive, although legal experts say Attorney General Kamala Harris probably has no choice but to let it go through the process. If it did get on the ballot and voters approved it, it almost assuredly would be struck down by a court as unconstitutional.
Laws's proposal is not likely to become law either, as she acknowledges. "Though delightful, the Intolerant Jackass Act would run headlong into the First Amendment," notes Slate blogger Mark Joseph Stern. "Still, it's nice to see a response to McLaughlin's measure that mocks its gonzo sadism without giving it the courtesy of a serious response. The Sodomite Suppression Act is a ridiculous proposal. With the Intolerant Jackass Act, Laws is only giving it the ridicule it deserves."