California Attorney General Kamala Harris is asking a state court for permission not to circulate a proposed ballot measure that calls for the killing of gay people.
The state allows citizens to file a ballot initiative on almost any subject, and the attorney general is required to create a summary and title, and OK each measure for signature-gathering after a 30-day public comment period, no matter the content. But Harris says the proposed Sodomite Suppression Act "not only threatens public safety, it is patently unconstitutional, utterly reprehensible, and has no place in a civil society," according to a statement issued by her office today.
The proposal, sponsored by Huntington Beach attorney Matt McLaughlin, 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." It has little chance of receiving the roughly 365,000 signatures it needs to qualify for the November 2016 ballot, and if it did, a very small chance of being approved by voters or being allowed by the courts to go into effect. But Harris wants to quash it now.
The state Supreme Court can take patently unconstitutional measures off the ballot, but the attorney general does not have authority to reject them and must seek a legal waiver. Harris said today she would ask the Sacramento County Superior Court to waive the requirement that she send the measure on for signatures, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. "If the Court does not grant this relief, my office will be forced to issue a title and summary for a proposal that seeks to legalize discrimination and vigilantism," she said in the statement.
Vikram Amar, a law professor at the University of California, Davis, told the Chronicle the court is likely to grant the waiver "to avoid a waste of time, when we know this thing could never be given effect."
The Human Rights Campaign praised Harris's action. "This disgusting, barbaric measure should be stopped in its tracks, and once again Attorney General Harris has demonstrated leadership in standing up for the rights and dignity of LGBT Californians," said HRC president Chad Griffin in a news release. Harris is in her second term as attorney general and has announced plans to seek the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Barbara Boxer next year.
A Los Angeles activist has come up with a more whimsical response to the Sodomite Suppression Act. Charlotte Laws has submitted a ballot measure called the Intolerant Jackass Act, which would mandate sensitivity training for anyone "who brings forth a ballot measure that suggests the killing of gays and/or lesbians" and force them to donate to pro-LGBT organizations.