When democracy doesn’t do its job

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This is part of California’s form of democracy. Every other year, citizens may propose initiatives (for a $200 fee) that suggest certain laws be placed on the ballot for the election year that follows.

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Democracy, in all its intricacies, was designed to give power to the masses, and for the most part, it is arguably the best way to maintain a civil society. But sometimes, democracy can work against the freedom of the people.

On Feb. 26, California lawyer Matt McLaughlin submitted a ballot initiative called the ‘Sodomite Suppression Act,’ a deplorable document that actually proposes the legal murder of people who engage in acts of sodomy, backed by a sickening religious philosophy, which he uses as an excuse to promote his own bigotry and intolerance:

“Seeing that it is better 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, the people of California wisely command, in the fear of God, that any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification be put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method.”

This is part of California’s form of democracy. Every other year, citizens may propose initiatives (for a $200 fee) that suggest certain laws be placed on the ballot for the election year that follows.

In an effort to receive judicial authorization from the Supreme Court so she does not have to issue a summary and title for the act, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris filed an action for declaratory relief. Harris also issued a statement regarding her decision:

“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. 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.”

And here lies the problem: Because she has filed this action, it forces the court to take the matter seriously, and if the court does not grant the relief, then Harris will be legally obligated to issue a title and summary, creating a legal nightmare for California.

If the relief is not granted, McLaughlin may legally begin the process of collecting signatures approving the proposal. It is doubtful McLaughlin will get the required 365,880 people to approve, thus placing the referendum on next year’s ballot. Even if he does, and enough people vote it into law (again, highly unlikely), the Supreme Court will undoubtedly overturn it, which they have done in the past for far less offensive laws.

This is not the only California proposal that suggests the promotion of intolerance, bigotry and general close-mindedness, but it is certainly the most heinous.

The fact that a man can receive government approval (albeit begrudgingly) to promote acts of genocide raises serious questions about the validity of California’s century old voting system. A particular sum of money should not be the only barrier to allow violent, uncivil proposals to pass the first step on the path to legality. It is clear now that California needs to reform its ballot initiative system if such proposals are even allowed to build up steam, rather than fizzle out the moment they are created.

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