“Shoot the Gays” petition dies

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.


  1. Jockaira says

    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.

    He was probably afraid of being laughed out of the courthouse.

  2. flex says

    he did not even show up to defend it in court

    IANAL, but my limited experience suggests that this was the aspect which swayed the judge.

    From my political experience, a proposal is seriously considered (even if it makes no rational sense) if the citizen shows up to defend it. There is a certain respect that elected representatives generally gives citizens, at least in the tradition of our board and in my wider experience. I don’t know that all elected officials do so, but at our level we deal with our constituents every day. So if a citizen really wants to speak to us, we politely give them time to do so, hear their arguments without laughing, and usually give reasoned responses even if there is no way we could comply with their request.

    However, if an odd request from a citizen shows up on our agenda, and they are not present (and have not provided a reasonable explanation about why they are not present), the request is usually rejected and the matter is considered closed.

  3. Matt G says

    Well, conservatives will just have to be satisfied with shooting blacks, still considered a Good Thing in many circles….

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