Back in April, I wrote about a ballot initiative proposed in California by a lawyer Matt McLaughlin that called for the death for anyone who engaged in homosexual activities. He called it the Sodomite Suppression Act though it quickly became dubbed the “Shoot the Gays” petition.
It is pretty easy to start the process of getting permission to circulate a petition in California. All it requires is a $200 fee. Actually getting it on the ballot is more difficult, currently requiring about 365,000 valid signatures to be obtained in 180 days.
The state’s attorney general Kamala Harris argued in court that her office should not have to go through all the paperwork involved in authorizing the circulation of the petition for something that was patently unconstitutional because it would simply be a colossal waste of time and resources.
Most legal observers felt that the court would be unlikely to pre-emptively declare an act to be unconstitutional instead of the usual practice of waiting for it to become law and then challenged by someone before deciding. But to some surprise, a judge in the Sacramento superior court agreed with Harris and threw out the petition application.
Judge Raymond Cadei of the Sacramento superior court wrote that the measure, called the “Sodomite Suppression Act”, was “patently unconstitutional” in a ruling filed on Monday and released on Tuesday.
He added that forcing the state attorney general, Kamala Harris, to prepare the measure to collect voter signatures would be “inappropriate, waste public resources, generate unnecessary divisions among the public and tend to mislead the electorate”.
Some worry that this kind of pre-emptive rejection sets a bad precedent that might harm the rights of citizens to present their ideas to the public. Others want to strike a middle ground by raising the filing fee so as to discourage frivolous petitions. McLaughlin was suspected of not being serious because he did not even show up to defend it in court and has made no public statement.