At some point this spring, it appears that Californians will be asked to sign a petition legalizing the murder of gay people. And it will be perfectly legit. As the Sacramento Bee reports, a lawyer named Matt McLaughlin has filed the proper paperwork, along with his $200 fee, to propose a state initiative called the Sodomite Suppression Act. Both the Bee and the San Francisco Chronicle report that Attorney General Kamala Harris has little choice but to allow it to proceed to the signature-gathering phase. Harris hasn't commented on whether she will try to find a legal way out, but previous cases suggest she won't be able to do so on free-speech grounds.
Assuming it does make it to the petition phase, the measure would almost certainly die a quick death by failing to get the 365,000 signatures needed to move forward. But in the meantime, it's causing a debate not only about free speech but about whether the state must find a way to weed out crazy, clearly illegal initiative proposals. McLaughlin, meanwhile, is the subject of a petition himself—launched by critics to have him disbarred. “It’s an interesting discussion about free speech, and I get that,” says its creator. “But this is a lawyer, and he’s advocating for murder.” About a decade ago, McLaughlin submitted an unsuccessful initiative proposal to make the King James Bible a textbook in public schools, notes the Chronicle. (Click to read Barney Frank's recollections about coming out as gay in the 1980s.)