A ballot initiative that calls for the wholesale execution of gays and lesbians was nixed Monday by a California judge who issued an order that declares the Sodomite Suppression Act “unconstitutional on its face.”
State Attorney General Kamala Harris had filed a lawsuit in March to block the initiative, arguing her office should not be required to formulate a ballot description for the measure — which states that gays and lesbians must be “put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method.”
Superior Court Judge Raymond M. Cadei agreed.
“Any preparation and official issuance of a circulating title and summary for the Act by the Attorney General would be inappropriate, waste public resources, generate unnecessary divisions among the public, and tend to mislead to the electorate,” said Cadei's decision.
Harris praised the ruling, which blocks the initiative from proceeding before the sponsor can gather a single petition signature.
"This proposed act is the product of bigotry, seeks to promote violence, is patently unconstitutional and has no place in a civil society,” Harris said in a statement to BuzzFeed News. “My office will continue to fight for the rights of all Californians to live free from hatred and intolerance."
Harris had intervened after national uproar over the initiative. In seeking judgment that the measure is unconstitutional, Harris' office wrote the initiative "would purport to make it a capital offense to engage in conduct the United States Supreme Court has made clear the government may not criminalize at all," citing the high court's 2003 decision that struck down Texas' sodomy ban.
The measure was filed by Orange County lawyer Matthew McLaughlin, who responded to the lawsuit by telling Harris in an April 2 letter that he “will not be filing a response.” The state state cannot require him to incur “costly litigation” to exercise his constitutional rights, he wrote, and warned that he may demand the measure be placed on the ballot directly.
McLaughlin never made a counterargument in court, and the judge ruled against him in a default judgement.
He did not immediately respond to a phone call Tuesday from BuzzFeed News.
Filed at a cost of $200, McLaughlin's initiative proclaims, "The People of California wisely command, in the fear of God, any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification be put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method.”
“The text shall be prominently posted in every public school classroom,” the proposal notes, adding, “All laws in conflict with this law are to that extent invalid.”
A fiscal impact statement by the state explained the the initiative "would make it a crime, punishable by up to ten years in prison and/or a fine of $1 million and/or expulsion from the state, to transmit 'sodomistic propaganda' to individuals under the age of 18."
However, in the cost of implementing the initiative was uncertain, officials wrote at the time, because "the measure would likely be determined by the courts to be in conflict with the U.S. Constitution."
Dominic Holden is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Dominic Holden at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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