California voters won't have to weigh in on a "death to gays" ballot measure after all.
Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Raymond M. Cadei has ruled that the so-called Sodomite Suppression Act, a measure proposed by an Orange County attorney, "is patently unconstitutional on its face," and therefore California Attorney General Kamala Harris doesn't have to circulate it to the public.
The ruling was dated Monday but released Tuesday; the Human Rights Campaign sent out a link to a Twitter posting of the order.
Matt McLaughlin, an attorney from Huntington Beach, filed the initiative with the attorney general's office in February. In California, anyone can propose a ballot measure by submitting the text to the attorney general and paying a $200 fee. Usually, the attorney general then has to give the measure an official title and issue a summary, and then after a 30-day public comment period the person or group who proposed the measure can attempt to get enough petition signatures to put it on the ballot in the next election.
State courts can keep "patently unconstitutional" measures off the ballot, but the attorney general does not have the authority to reject them and must seek a court waiver, which is what Harris did in taking the matter to the Sacramento County court in March.
McLaughlin's measure 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." Although it obviously had little chance of getting enough signatures to qualify for the November 2016 ballot or enough votes to pass, Harris wanted to avoid issuing a title and summary "for a proposal that seeks to legalize discrimination and vigilantism," she said at the time of the court filing.
She noted that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down antisodomy laws in 2003, so the measure sought to make a capital offense of something that was not against the law, and that the measure "not only threatens public safety, it is patently unconstitutional, utterly reprehensible, and has no place in a civil society."
Judge Cadei's order relieves her of the obligation to circulate the measure, saying, "Any preparation and official issuance of a circulating title and summary for the Act by the Attorney General would be inappropriate, waste public resources, generate unnecessary divisions among the public, and tend to mislead the electorate."