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News / Nation & World

Writer fights anti-gay initiative with fire

Idea that's 'obviously' unconstitutional set against another one

The Columbian
Published: April 20, 2015, 5:00pm

LOS ANGELES — A proposed California ballot measure that would authorize the killing of gays and lesbians infuriated one woman so much that she filed her own measure with the state attorney general’s office: the “Intolerant Jackass Act.”

The proposed ballot measure — yes, that is its actual name — by Woodland Hills author and activist Charlotte Laws would require anyone who proposes measures calling for the death of gay people to attend monthly sensitivity training and to donate $5,000 to “a pro-gay or pro-lesbian organization.”

Laws’ proposal is directly aimed at the Sodomite Suppression Act, a proposed initiative by Huntington Beach attorney Matthew McLaughlin that authorizes the killing of gay people by “bullets to the head” or “any other convenient method.”

“It was done as a statement to make fun of Mr. McLaughlin,” Laws said of her proposal. “I wanted the world to see that California is a very open-minded state and that he is a lone voice, a minority voice, and that my ‘Intolerant Jackass Act’ actually reflects the sentiments of Californians.”

McLaughlin has avoided the media since his initiative was made public. Calls to a phone number listed for him with the State Bar of California went straight to voicemail Monday.

McLaughlin’s proposal has tested the limits of California’s attitude of putting any idea with enough signatures on the ballot.

For a $200 fee, McLaughlin submitted his proposal to Attorney General Kamala Harris’ office, which is required by state law to give all proposed ballot measures a formal name and summary before the signature-gathering begins.

To get on the November 2016 ballot, McLaughlin and any supporters he has would have to collect more than 365,000 signatures in 180 days — a high bar even for well-financed efforts.

Last month, Harris asked for a court order allowing her to halt the measure, saying it was both “reprehensible” and unconstitutional. Harris filed an action for declaratory relief with the Sacramento County Superior Court, her office said.

The action is pending before the court and a hearing date has not been set yet, Kristin Ford, a spokeswoman for Harris, said Monday. Harris will not advance McLaughlin’s proposal to the signature-gathering step while the matter is before the court, Ford said.

Laws said she was shocked by McLaughlin’s proposal, even though it is considered to be an incredible long shot. When she learned any California citizen could submit a ballot proposal for the $200 fee, she decided to take a stand and file her own, she said.

Laws’ submitted initiative says the “abominable crime known as prejudice against sexual orientation … is a destructive view that society commands us to suppress,” and refers to people who bring forth ballot proposals like McLaughlin’s as “Intolerant Jackasses.”

It would require any intolerant jackass to attend three hours of sensitivity training per month for a year.

Unlike some lawmakers who have proposed increasing the fee for filing ballot measures in response to McLaughlin’s proposal, Laws said she was happy it was relatively inexpensive for citizens to file measures — and responses like hers.

“I’m not saying the initiative process is perfect … but the people of California are intelligent; they aren’t going to pass something like this absurd proposal,” she said of McLaughlin’s submission.

Laws said her proposal is just a statement and that she does not intend for it to move forward — though several people have offered to gather signatures. “Obviously, mine isn’t constitutional either,” she said.

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