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(RNS1-march26) California Attorney General Kamala Harris speaks at the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., on February 10, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

Calif. AG asks judge to halt initiative to kill gays

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LOS ANGELES — California Attorney General Kamala Harris asked a state court Wednesday (March 25) for an order allowing her to avoid processing a citizen-proposed anti-gay ballot measure that calls for executing gays with “bullets to the head.”

Harris said the so-called “Sodomite Suppression Act” proposed and named by Huntington Beach attorney Matthew McLaughlin “not only threatens public safety, it is patently unconstitutional, utterly reprehensible and has no place in a civil society.”

She filed an action asking the court for declaratory relief and judicial authorization allowing her to avoid issuing a title and summary for the proposal. An official state title and summary are necessary steps in authorizing a ballot initiative’s sponsors to seek the signatures needed to be placed before voters.

Without the court order, Harris said she would be compelled by law to proceed with the measure, which would authorize the killing of gays and lesbians in the state.

“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,” she said in a statement.

The ballot initiative is given no chance of becoming law, but it gives sponsors a means to attract attention to their proposal. The initiative would authorize the killing of gays and lesbians “by bullets to the head” or “any other convenient method.”

The measure also calls for a fine of $1 million or banishment from the state for distribution of gay “propaganda.

“It’s terrifying and almost laughable in the same breath,” Donald Bentz, executive director for the Sacramento LGBT Community Center, told KXTV-TV in Sacramento.

“It’s a little scary that that actually could happen and if it does get to the ballot, the firestorm that this is going to create and the hate crimes that could result from that,” he said.

Efforts to reach McLaughlin for comment were unsuccessful. Calls to his phone number on file with the State Bar of California were routed to a message saying his voicemail was full. The address for his office listed with the state Bar and in his ballot measure submission is a shopping center mail drop in Huntington Beach, in Orange County south of Los Angeles. He listed no e-mail address.

According the the state Bar’s website, McLaughlin was admitted to practice law in California in 1998 and is a graduate of the George Mason University School of Law in Virginia. He was listed as inactive by the Bar in 2012, a voluntary designation, and returned to active status in January 2014. There is no record of administrative actions or discipline by the state Bar.

The initiative sponsors would need to collect more than 365,000 valid voter signatures in 180 days to have it placed on an election ballot.

In response to the proposal, two members of the state assembly have proposed increasing the fee for filing a ballot measure from $200 to $8,000. It has not been acted on.

(William M. Welch writes for USA Today. )

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