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State attorney general seeks court order to stop anti-gay initiative

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Kamala Harris (Getty Images)

SACRAMENTO – Attorney General Kamala Harris is seeking a court order to prevent her from having to provide an official title and summary for an initiative proposed by a Huntington Beach lawyer that would permit the killing of gays, lesbians, transsexuals or bisexuals.

Harris wants to stop the so-called Sodomite Suppression Act proposed by Matthew McLaughlin. For a fee of $200, McLaughlin submitted the initiative to the state attorney general’s office, which must give it an officials title and summary so McLaughlin can being a signature-gathering effort to put it on the state ballot.

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, a lesbian, joined the growing chorus against the initiative effort and praised Harris for trying to block it.

“The proposal represents either the depth of bigotry and hatred or the height of sick publicity stunts — either way it should not be dignified by becoming an official part of the process Californians have to amend the state Constitution,” Atkins said.

“Having discussed options with Attorney General Harris, I know how seriously she takes her responsibility to the law and how seriously she takes her responsibility to protect the public’s safety,” Atkins said.

She said the initiative is “an obviously unconstitutional and dangerous initiative proposal that actually promotes murder.”

Harris said today she is seeking a court order to keep the initiative from reaching the ballot.

“This proposal not only threatens public safety, it is patently unconstitutional, utterly reprehensible and has no place in a civil society,” Harris said. “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.’

“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.

The proposed initiative was submitted to the state by Huntington Beach attorney Matthew McLaughlin. After proposed initiatives are submitted, the Attorney General’s Office generally gives them a name and provides a summary of the proposal so supporters can begin collecting signatures required to get the issue on a future ballot.

McLaughlin’s proposal calls for “any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification to be put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method.” It would also ban the distribution of “sodomistic propaganda” and bar gays and lesbians from holding public office.

McLaughlin would need to collect more than 365,000 petition signatures to get the initiative on the ballot.

The proposal has been met with outrage from elected officials, who have been searching for ways to block it. An online petition at seeking to have McLaughlin disbarred has already collected 41,380 signatures.

McLaughlin could not be reached for comment.

Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, proposed today that the state enact legislation making signatures on initiative petitions open to public review, and requiring petitions to include the line, “Your information as a signatory to this petition is subject to the California Public Records Act.”

“Voters must be informed when a petition they sign violates the United States Constitution,” Rendon said. “My proposal is simple: initiative signatures — particularly those that give permission to violate constitutional rights — shall be subject to the California Public Records Act.”

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