LGBT groups worry about rise of hostile ballot measures
First, there was the Sodomite Suppression Act, a proposed state ballot measure allowing for the killing of gays and lesbians. That proposal begat a counter-proposal: the Intolerant Jackass Act.
Now, another group is trying to use the state initiative process to restrict transgender people’s use of bathrooms in government-owned buildings — including public schools.
The proposal was submitted to Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris’ office by Privacy for All, a coalition that has unsuccessfully tried to repeal the state law requiring public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and play on sports teams of the gender with which they identify.
“There’s a trend out there, I call them science deniers, who don’t believe the biological reality of two sexes is real,” said Kevin T. Snider, an attorney with the Pacific Justice Institute, a conservative legal group that has been advising Privacy for All.
Privacy for All, he said, is worried that “societal norms” and “expectations of privacy” are under attack.
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. But many in the LGBT community said they are concerned about recent proposals that they argue seek to legalize discrimination.
“If history has shown us anything it is that the rights of the minority should not be determined by the will of the majority,” said Dave Garcia, director of policy for the Los Angeles LGBT Center. “These anti-LGBT initiatives pose an undue burden on the California taxpayer, they are inherently bigoted, ultimately unconstitutional and to most fair-minded Californians, they are simply embarrassing.”
Privacy for All submitted its proposal Friday. It would restrict restrooms, locker rooms and dressing rooms that transgender people can use. Called the Personal Privacy Protection Act, it would require people to “use facilities in accordance with their biological sex” in government-owned buildings, including public schools and universities. It would not apply to single-occupancy restrooms or to family restrooms.
“If we don’t do something before long,” Snider said, “there’s going to be a situation where our social expectations will be hijacked from us.”
Like the Sodomite Suppression Act, the Personal Privacy Protection Act would face a steep climb just to get on the November 2016 ballot, requiring 365,880 signatures in 180 days.
Kris Hayashi, executive director of the Transgender Law Center, called the proposed initiative unconstitutional and unenforceable, saying that it would “dangerously single out Californians who don’t meet people’s stereotypes of what it’s like to be male or what it looks like to be female, putting everyone at greater risk of harassment and opening the state up to costly lawsuits.”
Earlier this year, Huntington Beach attorney Matthew McLaughlin submitted the Sodomite Suppression Act, which would authorize the killing of gay people by “bullets to the head” or “any other convenient method.”
McLaughlin has not responded to numerous requests for comment.
The attorney general has filed an action for declaratory relief with the Sacramento County Superior Court that would allow her to halt the measure. That action is pending before the court, and Harris’ office will not be advancing McLaughlin’s proposal to the signature-gathering process until a ruling is made, said Kristin Ford, a spokeswoman.
Woodland Hills author and activist Charlotte Laws was so infuriated by McLaughlin’s proposal that she filed her own proposed ballot initiative: the Intolerant Jackass Act.
Her proposal would require anyone who files 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.
Laws said her proposal, which also would require more than 365,000 signatures to get on the ballot, was merely a statement. “Obviously,” she said, “mine isn’t constitutional either.”
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