A lawyer in California has proposed a ballot measure allowing the execution of gay people, and — despite predictable outrage — the state's Attorney General Kamala Harris might be required to circulate the measure. The “Sodomite Suppression Act,” filed by Orange County attorney Matthew Gregory McLaughlin on Feb. 24, would permit gays and lesbians to be “put to death by bullets to the head” if found to have engaged in homosexual acts. Because McLaughlin followed the letter of the law in submitting his proposal, Harris is obligated to circulate the despicable document for signatures.
In the measure, McLaughlin refers to gay sex as “a monstrous evil that Almighty God … commands us to suppress on pain of utter destruction.” His proposal seeks to pave the way to that domination by fear, by ensuring homosexuals could be punished with a bullet to the head, or “by any other convenient method.” The punishment would be required for anyone who had touched a person of the same sex in pursuit of sexual gratification.
According to New York's Daily News, McLaughlin’s initiative anticipates reluctance on the part of California’s judiciary. If the state should fail to carry out the sentence, the bill authorizes the general public to act as understudy — vigilante executions of homosexuals would go unpunished under the measure. Mass murder of the gay and lesbian community would, effectively, be legalized. An anti-gay propaganda clause also stipulates that those depicting homosexual acts or advocating for gay rights in the presence of minors should receive a $1 million fine, a 10-year prison term, or a sentence of eternal exile from the state.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the bill is most likely to be found unconstitutional. And it’s obvious to everyone but McLaughlin (and, one hopes, even to him) that the measure would never secure the 365,000 signatures required to bring it to ballot. And even if that did occur, in some post-apocalyptic parallel universe, voters would not support it in the 2016 ballot.
But California state law stipulates that anyone who writes a measure and submits it with a $200 check (which McLaughlin did in February) has the right to have the measure circulated. Harris, a U.S. Senate hopeful, will thus have the thoroughly distasteful job of drafting a title and summary of the bill by May this year. As attorney general, she has no power to veto a proposal, no matter how horrible or absurd. As the Daily News points out, the only viable way to block the bill is if California’s Supreme Court rules that it contravenes the state’s constitution.
A formal appeal to the State Bar of California has been made to annul McLaughlin’s license. This is not the first occasion the lawyer has submitted a bizarre measure. In 2004, he reportedly attempted to submit an initiative that would introduce the King James Bible as a required textbook in Californian school curricula.
According to Slate, California lawmakers are currently discussing ways of barring ludicrous and hate-filled initiatives. One suggestion is to drastically raise the filing fee. President and founder of the California Voter Foundation, Kim Alexander, told The Sacramento Bee:
Increasing the fee, even to $500 or $1,000, would help ensure that those who put initiatives into circulation are sincere in their efforts.
But despite the evident inanity of McLaughlin’s measure, Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern urges that this almost-laughable initiative shouldn’t draw attention away from very real legal threats to gay rights that are far more likely to be passed into law. Florida, Georgia, and Oklahoma are all, Stern writes, on the verge of putting through bills that would harm and humiliate gay people and their families.
In a motion inspiring some (perhaps unfounded) hope, Californian Republicans recently voted to recognize a gay-rights wing of the GOP — the Log Cabin Republicans — though they insisted that the uncharacteristic move by no means indicated a break with the party’s conservative principles. The state party platform still, disappointingly but unsurprisingly, declares: “We believe public policy and education should not be exploited to present or teach homosexuality as an acceptable ‘alternative’ lifestyle.”
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