Judge Nixes California’s “Kill the Gays” Ballot Initiative

California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images

On Monday, California Superior Court Judge Raymond Cadei ruled that state Attorney General Kamala Harris may refuse to certify the Sodomite Suppression Act, a proposed ballot initiative that called for all gay people to “be put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method.” Why the wholesale execution of a population? Because:

The abominable crime against nature known as buggery, called also sodomy, is a monstrous evil that Almighty God, giver of freedom and liberty, commands us to suppress on pain of our utter destruction even as he overthrew Sodom and Gomorrha. [sic]


Obviously, this act could never actually take effect in the United States. But the California Supreme Court has held that the attorney general has no discretionary authority to scrap proposals she dislikes. That rule was initially promulgated to prevent partisan meddling in the initiative process. But Cadei permitted Harris to scuttle the Sodomite Suppression Act because it is “patently unconstitutional on its face.” Technically, the author of the proposal, Orange County attorney Matt McLaughlin, could appeal the ruling, but because he has essentially disappeared since submitting his proposal, he’s unlikely to push back against the decision.

The outcry over the “kill the gays” proposal probably won’t do anything to advance the cause of gay rights—other than remind Americans that, yes, gay people still face serious, horrifying animus. But it may convince California to fix its initiative system, which is clearly broken. My colleague Anna Diamond has already floated a few proposals to screen out absurd and violent proposals. But I think Cadei just came up with a simple, commonsense fix: Let the attorney general ask a court for permission to reject any proposal that is “patently unconstitutional on its face.”