In September 2014, California became the first state to ban Gay and Trans ‘Panic’ defenses, where a defendant can claim self-defense after injuring or killing an individual who made unwanted homosexual or transexual advances. The fact that this defense wasn’t banned earlier is upsetting, but what is more upsetting is not even a year later, a Southern California lawyer has proposed a ballot initiative that would legalize the killing of homosexuals and those who sympathize with them. This proposed ballot initiative is known as the Sodomite Suppression Act.
The lawyer, Matt McLaughlin, has cited religious reasons behind his proposed initiative, and his proposal has California’s Attorney General Kamala Harris requesting a special exemption from processing this ballot initiative if the requirements are met, because it “not only threatens public safety, it is patently unconstitutional, utterly reprehensible, and has no place in civil society.” Under California law, if the ballot initiative collects 365,580 signatures, it will be introduced to voters as a Proposition in the November general elections.
We at the Foghorn believe that this proposed initiative is not only ridiculous, but incredibly abhorant. Despite national coverage by The New York Times, The Atlantic, NPR, and The Washington Post, there seems to be a lack of on-campus awareness about it. This initiative should’ve raised eyebrows from the very beginning. As a newspaper, we understand the importance of covering topics fairly without any bias, but we question how ethical it is to continue to cover the initiative with a neutral tone when it is proposing such drastic measures. The New York Times titled their article “Gays Targeted in a California Initiative” when reporting on the initiative, and The Atlantic titled their article “Will Californians Vote on Executing Gays and Lesbians?,” which comes off as a nonchalant question and undermines the history and present condition of persecution that threatens the gay and lesbian community.
Members of the Foghorn also echoed the reportings of the major news outlets, which reported the fact that the initiative has a very minuscule chance of ever obtaining enough signatures, especially in a state as liberal as California. The belief that the bill is so absurd and unlikely to succeed is probably one of the reasons there is a lack of uproar, despite the coverage it recieved. However, many of us believe that awareness of this initiative is necessary to illustrate how much hostility the LGBTQ+ community experiences, even in a state considered liberal, and to further create discussions about combating the hate the community faces.
While there isn’t the uproar that we would’ve expected on campus or statewide, writer and activist Charlotte Laws has proposed a counter-initiative titled “Intolerant Jackass Act,” which has been sent to the Attorney General for official title and summary. This initiative would label any author of ballot measures calling to kill lesbians and gays as an “intolerant jackass”, force him or her to attend at least three months of sensitivity training, and force the person to contribute $5000 to a pro-gay or pro-lesbian organization.
We hope to see students and staff at USF use the existence of McLaughlin’s proposed initiative to further educate members of the community about the hate the LGBTQ+ community faces, even in this day and age.