It sounds like something we would have come up with a joke in college. Just as Jonathan Swift once opined about eating babies as a solution to the Irish Famine, passing an absurd proposition would expose the proposition system for the fraud it really is.
Except this was no joke put forward by Huntington Beach Attorney Matt McLaughlin, attempting to suppress what he called an “abominable crime against nature known as buggery,” and seeking 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.”
“No person shall distribute, perform, or transmit sodomistic propaganda directly or indirectly by any means to any person under the age of majority,” he continues. “Every offender shall be fined $1 million per occurrence, and/or imprisoned up to 10 years, and/or expelled from the boundaries of the state of California for up to life.”
Surely such a law could easily be disposed of and stricken before it makes a mockery of the system – but no.
Attorney General Kamala Harris, in a release last week, wrote, “As Attorney General of California, it is my sworn duty to uphold the California and United States Constitutions and to protect the rights of all Californians.”
“This proposal not only threatens public safety, it is patently unconstitutional, utterly reprehensible, and has no place in a civil society,” she continued. “Today, I am filing an action for declaratory relief with the Court seeking judicial authorization for relief from the duty to prepare and issue the title and summary for the ‘Sodomite Suppression Act.’”
She would add, “If the Court does not grant this relief, my office will be forced to issue a title and summary for a proposal that seeks to legalize discrimination and vigilantism.”
The lack of action by officials, however, led Charlotte Laws of Woodland Hills to introduce the “Intolerant Jackass Act.” In it she declares, “The abominable crime known as prejudice against sexual orientation, called also ‘gay bashing,’ is a destructive view that society commands us to suppress.”
Under such an act, “Any person, herein known as an ‘Intolerant Jackass,” who brings forth a ballot measure that suggests the killing of gays and/or lesbians, whether this measure is called the Sodomite Suppression Act or is known by some other name, shall be required to attend sensitivity training for at least three (3) hours per month for twelve (12) consecutive months. In addition, the offender or ‘Intolerant Jackass’ must donate $5000 to a pro-gay or pro-lesbian organization.”
Clever, but this continues the mockery that is the California proposition system.
LA Times reporter Mariel Garza would opine, “Harris bestowed a level of gravity on a nutty proposal that would have otherwise probably died a quiet, ignoble death in some dark corner.”
She notes, “Not only does it appear that she doesn’t have the authority to keep offensive proposals from voters, but it also just gives the idea and its creator, Huntington Beach attorney Matt McLaughlin, more power. His last initiative attempt in 2003, a measure requiring the Bible be used as a textbook in public K-12 schools, didn’t go anywhere either, and with good reason.”
The LA Times Editorial Board covers for the proposition system, arguing this “is no reason for radical initiative reform.” Why? They argue, “it’s highly unlikely that this measure will make it to the ballot.”
They ask, “Who really believes McLaughlin can gather 365,880 signatures for it?”
One proposal is to raise the filing fee from $200 to $8000. The Times points out that the fee has not been increased in over 70 years, but “the fee should not be used as a tool to make it harder to file undesirable initiatives.”
Which is the real problem we face – the real damaging propositions, those that have a real chance of passing, are backed by tens of millions of dollars. For example, the plastic bag manufacturers are putting millions into an initiative that would overturn the bag ban. A fee hike will do nothing to stop the inequity of the system that allows deep pockets to put measures on the ballot and makes it difficult for the average citizen.
So while in this case it is a good thing that it is hard for a single person without millions in the bank to pass an initiative – the real problem is that the system which was put in place to allow the citizens to circumvent corrupt legislators has become a tool for the rich and powerful to circumvent democratically elected leaders.
—David M. Greenwald reporting