O.C. grads 'embarrassed' by ex-classmate's anti-gay initiative

Hundreds of Costa Mesa High School alums decry anti-gay initiative by fellow alumnus Matt McLaughlin

Although the Orange County lawyer who submitted a proposed ballot measure calling for the killing of gay people appears to have gone underground, hundreds of his former classmates have stepped forward to denounce him.

More than 350 Costa Mesa High School alumni have so far signed an online letter this week expressing their “shame and remorse” over the actions of Matthew McLaughlin, who wrote the so-called “Sodomite Suppression Act.”

The proposed ballot measure, which has drawn condemnation statewide, calls for the killing of gay people by “bullets to the head” -- or “any other convenient method.”

“McLaughlin’s cruel words don’t reflect our values,” the letter says. “If anything, the Mesa we remember stands for just the opposite. As a public school in a mainly working-class part of town, Mesa has long served a community of many different races, nationalities, beliefs and sexualities.”

McLaughlin, who has avoided the media since the initiative was made public, has said in the past that he attended Costa Mesa High School in the late '80s and was a National Merit Scholarship semi-finalist. He later graduated from UC Irvine and George Mason University law school. He drafted an initiative more than a decade ago that would have allowed public school teachers in California to use the Bible as a textbook.

“How sad that McLaughlin, who boasts that he made the honor roll at Mesa, never learned the Golden Rule,” the alumni letter says.

For a fee of $200, McLaughlin submitted the proposed initiative that calls same-sex intimacy “a monstrous evil.”

To get onto the November 2016 ballot, though, McLaughlin and any supporters he has would have to collect more than 365,000 signatures in 180 days.

Though the proposal is considered an incredible long shot, lawmakers said it is so repugnant that it underscores the need for the state’s initiative process to be reformed. On Wednesday, Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris asked for a court order allowing her to halt the measure, calling it both “reprehensible” and unconstitutional.

Clay Stockton, a 1994 graduate of Costa Mesa High School who wrote the alumni letter, said alumni were angry and shocked by McLaughlin’s proposed initiative. Stockton, an attorney, said he did not know McLaughlin personally and that “not surprisingly, people aren’t exactly coming out of the woodwork to talk about their old pal Matt.”

Some of the people signing the letter, he said, are gay. Others are religious and don’t want their views confused for McLaughlin’s, he said.

“The word that I’ve seen come up the most in people’s remarks has been ‘embarrassed,’” Stockton said. “People are embarrassed to share an alma mater with this guy. I think they’re upset at the bad light they feel he’s put them in."

Dozens of Facebook commenters discussing the alumni letter said they were horrified that McLaughlin had attended their school.

“As a gay man, CMHS alumni, and a father, I find this man and his beliefs disturbing and offensive,” one man wrote.

Not much is known about McLaughlin, whose listed address with the state bar is a postal box at a Beach Boulevard strip mall in Huntington Beach. Court and voter registration records show that he most recently lived in downtown Huntingon Beach and worked from home. A resident at that home said McLaughlin no longer lives there.

The attorney appears to have filed few notable lawsuits and, according to a now-disabled Web page, specialized in services such as bankruptcy claims and contract negotiations. In 2012, he donated $500 to Costa Mesa Councilman Steve Mensinger’s reelection campaign. McLaughlin also holds a real estate broker license.

A 2006 civil suit in Orange County alleges McLaughlin failed to fully pay off $60,000 in student debt from George Mason University law school, as well as promissory notes for another $17,000. The suit says collectors made 41 futile attempts to serve him with a court summons at his home address.

A court document filed in September 2006 said that McLaughlin appeared to be evading collectors.

McLaughlin later agreed to begin making payments, court records show.

An online petition at change.org calling for McLaughlin to be disbarred had more than 53,000 signatures on Thursday.

Twitter: @haileybranson and @emfoxhall

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