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California AG moves to block ‘shoot the gays’ ballot initiative from going forward

California AG moves to block ‘shoot the gays’ ballot initiative from going forward
Attorney General Kamala Harris (D-Calif.)
Attorney General Kamala Harris (D-Calif.)

SAN FRANCISCO – California Attorney General Kamala Harris on Wednesday moved to block a proposed ballot initiative that calls for gays to be executed.

Matthew G. McLaughlin, an Orange County, Calif., attorney filed the proposed measure last month.

McLaughlin’s initiative seeks to amend the California penal code to make gay or lesbian sex a capital offense punishable by “bullets to the head or by any other convenient method” and the distribution of gay “propaganda” a crime punishable by a $1 million fine or banishment from the state.

On Wednesday, Harris filed an action for declaratory relief seeking a state court’s authorization to not issue a title and summary for the initiative.

“As Attorney General of California, it is my sworn duty to uphold the California and United States Constitutions and to protect the rights of all Californians. This proposal not only threatens public safety, it is patently unconstitutional, utterly reprehensible, and has no place in a civil society.

“Today, I am filing an action for declaratory relief with the Court seeking judicial authorization for relief from the duty to prepare and issue the title and summary for the “Sodomite Suppression Act.” If the Court does not grant this relief, my office will be forced to issue a title and summary for a proposal that seeks to legalize discrimination and vigilantism.”

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Under California’s initiative process, once a sponsor has paid the required $200 filing fee, the attorney general’s office issues official titles and ballot summaries for proposed initiatives before sponsors can circulate signature petitions to qualify their measures to go before voters.

State officials do not have authority to refuse to process initiatives they find objectionable.

Harris, who earlier in her tenure refused to defend a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages when it was challenged in court, said that unless a judge rules otherwise, she will have no choice but to move the measure through the normal channels.

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University of California, Davis law Professor Floyd Feeney, an expert on California’s initiative process, agreed with Harris that she alone cannot impede the proposed law since the state Supreme Court ruled in a 1978 case that the attorney general’s role in preparing ballot titles and summaries is a ministerial duty that affords no room for discretion.

That case dealt with an initiative that sought to outlaw teacher strikes, prohibit teachers unions from contributing to political campaigns, and to prevent public money from being spent on busing for school desegregation.

Yet despite the numerous legal problems with McLaughlin’s proposal, Feeney said he was not convinced a court would agree to step in now to halt it given its poor chances of qualifying for the ballot, never mind winning voter approval.

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“The courts, rightly or wrongly, treat the initiative as sort of the citizen right, and they are reluctant to get involved in trying to get rid of it, at least in advance, by using the law to keep something from being presented to the electorate,” he said.

McLaughlin did not respond to a telephone call from the Associated Press seeking comment.

Earlier this week, local activist Charlotte Laws said she would fight McLaughlin’s ballot initiative by proposing the “Intolerant Jackass Act.

A copy of Harris’ filing is here

Associated Press contributed to this report.
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