There is a misconception that a liberal state like California would never fall prey to religious extremism like the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, IS) gaining ground and wreaking havoc on citizens, but that would be a mistake. Although California is liberal, there is a giant contingent of extremists that make states like Mississippi look progressive. Just think of the anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment (Proposition 8) that started the nation’s march toward marriage equality. Prop 8 was successful in part due to an idiotic experiment in “direct democracy” where any extremist idea that garners 300,000 signatures can be put on a statewide ballot for inclusion to the state’s Constitution; it is a very, very bad idea.
Now, there is a proposal under way for a ballot initiative to rival ISIS atrocities calling for the execution of gays and lesbians; the Sodomite Suppression Act. According to the attorney pushing the ballot initiative, the only way to save righteous Californians lives is enacting a “kill the gays measure” according to the Old Testament. His fanatical reasoning is that to prevent “all of us from being killed by god’s just wrath against us for the folly of tolerating wickedness in our midst, any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification shall be put to death by bullets to the head or any other convenient method; this by wise command of the good people of California.”
Before any American thinks this will never fly in the Golden State, just reconsider that because of California’s direct democracy cockup, the religious right, Mormons, and Catholics from around the nation poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the campaign to pass that other fanatical ballot initiative Prop 8. For one thing, even though the initiative’s author is from Southern California like Prop 8’s, they garnered massive support from the Great Central Valley that is without question a religious right haven without comparison in any area of the nation.
This is just one reason why direct democracy is not a valid means of making laws. It is prescient to remember George Carlin’s not-so-funny warning to “never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups” and replace the word ‘stupid’ with religious fanatics. The power of religious freaks in large groups in California is substantial and they will embrace a constitutional amendment to avoid suffering god’s wrath.
Since the ballot initiative’s author followed the rules and paid his $200 to get the ball rolling, California Attorney General Kamala Harris cannot quash the proposal simply because it is barbaric and unconstitutional. In fact, although there is a movement in the state to reform the direct democracy initiative process to prevent these dangerous constitutional amendments from reaching fruition, there is an even bigger well-funded movement among conservatives to prevent the attorney general, or legislature, from having any discretion to derail a ballot proposal regardless how extreme it is. Still, the attorney general’s office began researching whether there is a legal ground to file a lawsuit to put a stop to the Draconian initiative on the basis enacting it is patently unconstitutional. Kamala Harris will find the extremists will robustly defend the initiative process in the courts because they are aggrieved and intent on exacting revenge for Prop 8 being struck down by the courts against god’s wishes.
In the state legislature, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus wrote a letter to the State Bar, demanding an investigation into the initiative’s author, Matt McLaughlin, fitness to practice law. Another 3,800 people signed a petition to State Bar President Craig Holden asking that McLaughlin lose his law license for advocating to “legalize the murder” of gays and lesbians. But there has been no action and the measure is “proceeding to the signature-gathering stage.” All the while, the Attorney General has no recourse but to follow through with her proscribed duty of writing an official legal title and summary for the proposal. Legal experts say Kamal Harris has no choice, or prerogative, but to do her part in helping advance the process, and that the initiative’s author will not face professional consequences and can continue practicing law.
As a last resort, Attorney General Kamala Harris is looking to a state court for permission to quash the initiative, but understands the state’s ‘direct democracy’ experiment prevents her from doing anything but complaining about the barbaric and unconstitutional nature of the proposal. She said that, “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.” Still, it is also Harris’ sworn duty to do everything in her power to help advance the proposal no matter how “unconstitutional utterly reprehensible, or a threat to public safety;” like it or not.
The real question is at what point is a measure too extreme for inclusion on California ballots? There will always be 300,000 extremists ready and willing to sign a ballot measure, especially in a heavily populated state like California. Worse, there are highly-motivated and well-funded groups across the nation willing to invest hundreds-of-millions of dollars to see even the harshest measure enacted for special interests. That this particular abomination was not summarily thrown out is telling, and dangerous, because state officials have not made any attempt to reform the ballot initiative process due to pressure from outside groups, and their dark money, from enacting all manner of despicable laws without participation by the state’s legislature of governor.
Just the fact that a ‘kill the gays’ initiative is being advanced in a liberal state like California is reason enough to challenge the dangerous concept of direct democracy. In the last election, the Koch brothers were able to fund several ballot initiatives to eliminate California’s environmental protections and wipe out union representation and worker protections in the state. It is damn high time for the California legislature to do right by the residents and put an immediate end to this dangerous idea that any outside group of oligarchs, or religious extremists, can gather signatures and fund a crusade to impose their will on the people. The Founding Fathers intended for America to be a representative democracy because they understood that the country could never survive because of the “power of stupid, or religious extremist, in large groups;” something America has in great abundance.