California’s initiative system lends itself even to the worst expressions of hate. The California “Sodomite Suppression” initiative defeats everything we understand as a society, promoting criminal actions and testing the limits of the system.
Attorney Matt McLaughlin’s proposal is based on religious arguments, suggesting that “death by bullets to the head” is a proper punishment for someone who is engaged in a homosexual relationship. It also seeks to turn speaking about gay rights in front of minors into a felony to be punished by jail, fines and expulsion from the state.
This proposal is outrageous. It is an atrocity that deserves no consideration. However, McLaughlin paid the $200 registration fee, and the initiative is circulating, aiming to collect the 365,880 signatures that will allow it to appear in the voting ballot. California’s Attorney General Kamala Harris – with good reason – cannot reject a measure, which is why she gave it a title and made a summary, as she would with any other proposition.
Although Harris has already asked the courts to annul the measure, in cases of initiatives of dubious constitutionality – such as Proposition 187 – judges often act after the proposal has been approved by voters.
The system of initiatives was created to give citizens a voice when the Legislature ignores them. Between 1910 and 2012, 1,216 propositions have been included in the California ballots, and many more did not make it to election day. The system allows people to promote their causes in the hopes of attracting attention statewide. For instance, at the moment, a proposition is circulating to change the title of the governor of California for “President,” and another one seeks to modify alimony laws.
The anti-gay initiative is especially disturbing because it reflects the harassment climate prevailing throughout the country. In Indiana, there is no proposal to kill gays, but a law now allows businesses to discriminate against them because of their sexual preference.
Intolerance is gaining new ground. Using religion as a justification is unacceptable. First, they single out people for being different, then they discriminate against them, and finally they want to kill them. We are not talking about Islamist extremists in the Middle East, but extremists in California and the United States.