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Politics

California Attorney General Moves To End Anti-Gay Initiative

California Attorney General Kamala Harris is shown speaking during a general session at the California Democrats State Convention in Los Angeles on March 8, 2014.
Jae C. Hong / Associated Press
California Attorney General Kamala Harris is shown speaking during a general session at the California Democrats State Convention in Los Angeles on March 8, 2014.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris said Wednesday that she plans to ask a state court for permission to not authorize a proposed ballot initiative that advocates putting to death anyone who engages in sex with a person of the same gender.

Harris issued a statement saying she was making the unusual request to stop the so-called Sodomite Suppression Act filed by a Southern California lawyer late last month. The initiative seeks to amend the California penal code to make gay or lesbian sex a capital offense punishable by " bullets to the head or by any other convenient method" and the distribution of gay "propaganda" a crime punishable by a $1 million fine or banishment from the state.

"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," Harris said.

Harris is backed by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) who said the idea is "an obviously unconstitutional and dangerous initiative proposal that actually promotes murder."

"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."

The attorney general's office issues official titles and ballot summaries for proposed ballot initiatives before their sponsors are allowed to circulate signature petitions to qualify their measures for the ballot. Under California's initiative process, state officials do not have authority to refuse to process initiatives they find objectionable.

Harris said that unless a judge rules otherwise, she will have no choice but to move the measure through the normal channels.

Matthew McLaughlin, the Orange County lawyer who paid $200 to submit the initiative, did not immediately respond to a telephone call seeking comment.

What questions do you have about the Statewide General Election coming up on Nov. 8? Submit your questions here, and we'll try to answer them in our reporting.