Saying a proposed ballot measure calling for the killing of gay people is “patently unconstitutional on its face,” a Sacramento County judge has ruled that the state attorney general can halt the proposal.
With the judge’s ruling, the so-called Sodomite Suppression Act will not move forward to the signature-gathering phase and cannot be placed on a future ballot. The proposal, submitted by Huntington Beach attorney Matthew McLaughlin, sought to authorize the murder of gays and lesbians by “bullets to the head” or “any other convenient method.”
“This proposed act is the product of bigotry, seeks to promote violence, is patently unconstitutional and has no place in a civil society,” Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris said in a statement Tuesday.
Harris is required by state law to give all proposed ballot measures a formal name and summary before they advance to the signature-gathering process. Earlier this year, Harris filed an action for declaratory relief with the Sacramento County Superior Court asking the court to let her essentially ignore McLaughlin’s proposal and stop it from advancing.
Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Raymond M. Cadei granted Harris’ request in a decision issued Monday.
Requiring Harris to advance McLaughlin’s proposal to the signature-gathering phase “would be inappropriate, waste public resources, generate unnecessary divisions among the public and tend to mislead the electorate,” Cadei wrote.
McLaughlin’s proposal has tested the limits of the state’s normally liberal attitude on putting even the most extreme ideas on the ballot if enough signatures are collected.
For a fee of $200 he submitted the proposal to Harris’ office in February. To get on the November 2016 ballot, McLaughlin and any supporters he had would have had to collect more than 365,000 signatures in 180 days, a high bar even for well-financed efforts.
"Today's decision has affirmed what we believed all along," said Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), chairwoman of the LGBT Caucus. "This measure was unconstitutional and was itself speech inciting violence, and therefore unprotected by the 1st Amendment. We applaud the initiative taken by Atty. Gen. Harris and the wisdom of Judge Raymond Cadei, together sparing California any further effort in fighting it."
McLaughlin has avoided the media since his proposal became public.
Harris said she applauded the court’s decision and that her office would “continue to fight for the rights of all Californians to live free from hatred and intolerance.”