California ballot proposal on killing gay people triggers backlash, frustration

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A shocking California ballot proposal that calls for gays and lesbians to be “put to death by bullets to the head” is triggering a widespread backlash for the author -- while also raising questions about the state's unique and sometimes-troublesome ballot initiative process.

Orange County lawyer Matthew Gregory McLaughlin filed the “Sodomite Suppression Act” late last month with the state attorney general's office. The initiative, which purports to give residents the authority to act as executioners, contains incendiary language that already is being called outright hate speech.

The proposal reads: “Seeing that it is better that offenders should die rather than that all of us should be killed by God’s just wrath against us for the folly of tolerating wickedness in our midst, the people of California wisely command, in the fear of God, that 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.”

McLaughlin's proposal also calls for banning gays -- or “sodomites” – from holding public office. Those found guilty of spreading propaganda would be fined $1 million and/or thrown in jail for a decade. He or she could also be banned from California for life, under the proposal.

Of course, none of this would ever be implemented as it would run afoul of any number of state and federal laws -- let alone the constitutional right to due process. But the proposal itself continues to go through the official ballot initiative process, and some are concerned it's been able to get this far.

“It was not exactly a surprise, as we know bigotry of this kind persists, so much as exasperation that it would prove such a waste of state resources,” Assemblymember Susan Eggman told about McLaughlin’s ballot proposal.

Eggman, a Democrat, says while the chances of the proposal even making it on the 2016 ballot are slim, the damage may already have been done.

“This is hate speech, linked to a call to do harm,” Eggman told “That’s not an abstract. LGBT people continue to be the targets of violence, here and around the world, and we have a responsibility to fight calls for more violence directed against us, and to ensure that LGBT youth who are still discovering themselves and their place in the world are assured that it is not only safe for them, but that they are warmly welcomed.”

Part of the issue is California's free-flowing ballot initiative process. To submit one, any resident can start by paying a $200 fee. The public has a month to respond before the attorney general publishes a title and 100-word summary of the measure. It is then up to the bill’s sponsor to gather signatures equaling 5 percent of those who voted in the last election for governor -- in this case, about 366,000 names. Then, it can go to voters on the ballot.

Though California Attorney General Kamala Harris has no real options to stop a measure from ending up on the ballot if the criteria are met, the state’s Supreme Court can step in and invalidate the measure. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, which first reported the story, the state Supreme Court can keep a measure off the ballot if they rule it violates California’s constitution.

McLaughlin, who did not respond to multiple requests for comment from, is meanwhile facing a personal backlash for the initiative.

On March 4, state Sen. Ricardo Lara sent a letter to Craig Holden, president of the State Bar of California, calling for an investigation into McLaughlin’s character. In the letter, which was obtained by, Lara said he was “deeply disturbed that a member of the State Bar would promote such pitiful, evil and hateful sentiments in this proposed initiative.”

Lara wants the bar to review McLaughlin’s conduct and “determine if, in light of the governing authorities, he continues to meet the standards required of membership in the State Bar of California.”

Laura Ernde, communications director at the State Bar of California, told that the organization is aware of the public calls for McLaughlin’s disbarment but that, by law, she could not discuss an ongoing investigation.

Legal ethics lawyer Jonathan Arons told that while most everyone can agree that McLaughlin’s views on homosexuals are “heinous,” he was hard-pressed to find an actual legal violation McLaughlin committed.

If the state bar decides to go after McLaughlin, possible punishments include everything from a warning letter to actual suspension, Arons said.