Court Rules ‘Shoot the Gays’ Referendum Can Be Blocked

AP Photo/Annika AF Klercker
AP Photo/Annika AF Klercker

On Monday, a judge from Sacramento County ruled that a proposed ballot measure called the “Sodomite Suppression Act,” which called for the execution of gays and lesbians throughout the state, was unconstitutional. Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Raymond M. Cadei’s decision means that the measure cannot advance to the signature-gathering phase, thus barring it from being placed on the ballot.

The “Sodomite Suppression Act,” created by Huntington Beach attorney Matthew McLaughlin, who paid $200 to file the measure in February, ignited outrage across the state as it called for gays and lesbians to be executed by “bullets to the head” or “any other convenient method.” McLaughlin wrote that it was beter for the state to execute gays and lesbians than to elicit “God’s just wrath.”

Attorney General Kamala Harris had filed a request with the Superior Court in March to excuse her from preparing a title and summary for the measure, which is required before the signature-gathering stage. She asserted that by preparing the measure for consideration, she would waste state resources, cause unnecessary divisions and mislead the public.

Harris told the Sacramento Bee in March, “This is not about whether we like something or not, or whether we simply find it offensive or troubling. In this case, we are talking about a proposal that literally is calling for violence. It’s calling for vigilantism. It’s calling for the public to be able to shoot in the head a member of the LGBT community. I, frankly, do not want to be in the position of giving any legitimacy to those words.”

Cadei echoed Harris in his decision, ruling, “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 the electorate.”

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) was relieved by the decision. HRC President Chad Griffin stated, “Lest there was any doubt, a heinous California ballot initiative seeking to put gay people to death has been found unconstitutional. HRC thanks Attorney General Kamala Harris for her continued leadership in standing up for the rights and dignity of LGBT Californians, and Superior Court Judge Raymond Cadei for recognizing that this barbaric initiative has no place on a ballot in California or anywhere else.”

Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), chairwoman of the LGBT Caucus, told the Los Angeles Times, “Today’s decision has affirmed what we believed all along. This measure was unconstitutional and was itself speech inciting violence, and therefore unprotected by the 1st Amendment. We applaud the initiative taken by Atty. Gen. Harris and the wisdom of Judge Raymond Cadei, together sparing California any further effort in fighting it.”

McLaughlin did not defend his measure in court, preferring to write a letter to Harris, which stated, “If your office and the California Secretary of State refuse to clear the Sodomite Suppression Act for signature collection, I may demand as a remedy that it be placed on the election ballot directly,” according to Christianity Today.


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