'Intolerant Jackass Act' author may collect signatures for ballot proposal

Author of Intolerant Jackass Act, proposed in response to anti-gay measure, allowed to collect signatures

The so-called Intolerant Jackass Act is, so far, being tolerated by state officials.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced on Wednesday that the author of the proposed initiative may begin circulating the measure and collecting signatures.

Charlotte Laws, a Woodland Hills author and activist, wrote the Intolerant Jackass Act in response to the Sodomite Suppression Act, a proposed initiative by Huntington Beach attorney Matthew McLaughlin that would authorize the killing of gays and lesbians by “bullets to the head” or “any other convenient method.”

Laws’ initiative would require anyone who proposes measures calling for the death of gay people to attend monthly sensitivity training and to donate $5,000 to a “pro-gay or pro-lesbian organization.”

To get on the November 2016 ballot, both McLaughlin and Laws would each have to collect more than 365,000 signatures in 180 days – a high bar even for well-financed efforts.

Laws told the Los Angeles Times that she wrote the initiative to "make fun of Matt McLaughlin," and that she wanted to send the message "that Californians are open-minded people" who stand up for gay rights.

She said she felt her proposal had "served its purpose" and that she did not plan to circulate the petition for signatures. Several people, however, have contacted her saying they would help her gather signatures, Laws said. She said Wednesday that she wouldn't stop them if they wanted to do so. 

"I do feel that Matt McLaughlin has been slapped down and put in his place," Laws said. "I'm glad my proposal made an impact. My intent was to send a message and to support gay rights. ... It's served its purpose."

McLaughlin has avoided the media since his initiative was made public.

Californians can submit ballot proposals to the state attorney general’s office for a $200 fee, and officials are required to put even the most extreme ideas on the ballot if enough signatures are collected. The attorney general’s office has little choice but to give proposals a ballot-worthy name, summarize their effects and set the clock running for gathering signatures.

The attorney general's official summary of Laws’ proposal says it would have “likely negligible fiscal effect on state and local governments.” The “Intolerant Jackass” name has been removed from its official title, and has now been given a far less colorful label: “Ballot measures. Sexual orientation prejudice. Initiative statute.”

State Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris in March asked for a court order allowing her to halt McLaughlin’s measure, saying it was both “reprehensible” and unconstitutional. Harris filed an action for declaratory relief with the Sacramento County Superior Court that would let her essentially ignore the proposal and not allow it to advance to the signature-gathering process.

Harris’ office said Wednesday that the court has granted her request to extend the deadline by which she must give the proposal an official name and summary to June 25 to allow time to bring the court case to a conclusion.

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