Cal. Can Ignore Unconstitutional 'Kill the Gays' Ballot Proposal

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on June 25, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Just in time for this weekend's Gay Pride celebrations and right on the cusp of the Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling, California's got some good, gay news: a ballot initiative to execute gays and lesbians can be snuffed out without going through the regular ballot process. It's the little victories that count.

The ridiculous Sodomite Suppression Act was the work of Orange Count attorney Matthew McLaughlin and would have required capital punishment for same-sex sexual activity -- carried out by any member of the public. Besides being offensively stupid, the ballot measure is patently unconstitutional and state attorney general Kamala Harris refused to even process the proposal -- i.e., allow it to be put out for petitions in order to qualify for the ballot.

Not Even McLaughlin Can Defend It

For a man with such strong opinions, Matthew McLaughlin has been awfully quiet since he paid $200 to submit the ballot initiative. The proposed act, in addition to demanding that gays and lesbians be killed "by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method," also sought to prohibit gay "propaganda," made punishable by a million dollar fine or banishment. When Harris sought a declaratory ruling that she could not process the initiative, McLaughlin did not respond or defend his position -- not that there was much of anything defensible about it.

Had the ballot measure been processed, the state would have to release the proposal for signatures, giving it a mark of legitimacy that pretty much everyone opposed. Judge Cadei agreed, writing that it would be inappropriate and would "waste public resources, generate unnecessary divisions among the public, and tend to mislead the electorate" should the measure be processed.

Other Ballot Measures May Proceed

California hasn't abandoned its generally liberal ballot initiative procedures, however. A ballot initiative to require transgender people to use the bathroom of their birth sex, which opponents say will violate the state and federal anti-discrimination laws. The state, however, has not refused to process that initiative.

Indeed, McLaughlin's proposal has spawned a few retaliatory initiatives. A proposal for the "Intolerant Jackass Act" would require sensitivity training and a $5,000 fine from anyone who "brings forth a ballot measure that suggests the killing of gays and/or lesbians." The "Shellfish Suppression Initiative" attempts to implement a different take on Leviticus, making the selling or consuming of shellfish a felony.

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