It is time to take the lunatics seriously.
I envision it will go something like this: I am exiting a restaurant with my two vibrant and happy 12-year old sons in tow. A pleasantly dressed young man stops us. “Would you mind signing my petition to get a proposition on the ballot?” he asks.
I am already apprehensive, as I know what is going on in the state, and dismiss him quickly, “No thanks,” and I try to move us on. My sons give me inquisitive glances. They know I am more accessible than this. They know I am usually willing to give even a stranger a minute to hear them out. Why am I now so obstinate?
He blurts out, “Please sir. It is so we will be able to execute the gays and save California from their evil sexual habits!” I have now gone from irritated to irate.
“Get away from my family immediately,” I snarl as I quickly move us out of his range. I see the horrified look on my sons’ faces. They and kids much younger than they would be able to pick up the direct meaning of what had just happened.
“Dad! What did that mean? They are working to make a law so people can just…kill you? Can they do that? Why do they hate you?” my son Jesse will barrage me with at once. My son Jason is much more introspective. While Jesse’s fears will be aired verbally and answered, Jason’s will lie dormant in his mind until I have the opportunity to try to ease them out of him at a later time.
They will not see that the measure is not likely to succeed. They will only see it as something people are “reasonably” discussing on our streets. They will see people using the legal process to humiliate and violate human dignity. They will see our family as so valueless that we will be the targets of this legitimized hatred. It will send the message that the question on whether to dehumanize gay people is actually debatable.
The suggestion that such a conversation is acceptable will be on every street corner, and on our public airwaves. While the messaging will cause pain to grounded self-assured adults, it will send devastating messages to the more vulnerable— our children, at risk LGBT teens, transgender people and more.
It will be with us because we thought an evil man was also stupid, when the truth is, he was one step ahead of us. We will have learned one of the realities of our modern age: that being evil and being smart are not necessarily mutually exclusive propositions.
Months ago, it was announced that a crackpot lawyer in Southern California had paid a $200 filing fee to propose the California “Sodomite Suppression Act” initiative. This proposition, if codified, would make it legal to massacre gay people. The reaction to the filing was shocked bemusement. The man was seen as evil and an idiot. “This thing doesn’t stand a chance,” cavalierly scoffs the New Republic’s Christian Farias. Even an alternate ballot initiative targeting his insensitivity was filed.
Make no mistake about it. The proponent of the “Sodomite Suppression Act” attorney Matthew McLaughlin is evil, but he is not alone. Unfortunately, the more likely scenario is that someone who is both evil and rich employs him.
Farias gloats that McLaughlin has not “done his research” because many of the things proposed have already been declared un-Constitutional. (Really? What gave you your first clue, the proposed shooting of other citizens in the head?) It is unthinkable that someone who knows the ins and outs of the legal process has not already figured out what the ultimate fate of this law, in a publicly passed form, would be.
I would suggest that passing the initiative is not the goal at all.
It is on this point that I don’t think McLaughlin is THAT stupid. As a gay family who lived through the humiliation of the Proposition 8 campaign, I can tell you that in many ways the bigger effect is not about the destination of an initiative, it is about the very public process and journey to get there—win or lose.
I don’t believe the McLaughlin objective is to ever see his proposal become law. I believe that he and those behind him are using the California initiative and justice system to run a legitimized hate campaign against LGBT people and our families. I don’t think the requirement to try to collect 365,000 signatures by the McLaughlin engine is being seen by them as a hassle, that it is exactly in what they want to participate—a legitimized, protected way to hit the streets of California to peddle hate and intimidate gay people.
McLaughlin has responded to Harris’s attempts to derail the signature gathering process by having the initiative go automatically on the ballot. If that occurred, it would save us street confrontations, but the hate machine would then be able to send homophobic violence incitement speech as a political message across the airwaves, one that media would have trouble suppressing.
It was bad enough during proposition 8 when we could see signature gathers asking people to sign up to disavow our family’s existence. It was painful seeing signs during the campaign that outright claimed we were less of a family. This however, would make that experience seem like a joyful walk in the park.
So is this an over blown fear on my part? Is it unthinkable that behaviors like the Nazis enacted at their very beginning might grow into something worse as they did in early 20th century Europe? Is Matthew McLaughlin a sole entity living out his 15 minutes of fame with depravity and zero chance of success?
Here are the things I would suggest considering as you make your mind up on how serious a threat he poses:
- He has not sought the limelight as an attention seeker would. In fact, his public anonymity is masterful in its thoroughness. He was last publicly trackable in 2004 around another initiative campaign to put Bibles in schools. After that, he becomes literally invisible and untrackable. This indicates that another far bigger public impact is planned and pending.
- Journalist friends I have spoken to theorize that he is a paid corporate lawyer since there have been no public legal motions on record from him since the 2004 campaign. This means he is under the employ of a private entity for whom he advises, acts, and has been unseen.
- If he is merely the representative of something larger, the bankroll represented could be substantial. The anti-gay industry spends billions each year and fund raises through designated hate groups like the “Family Research Council” and others. Their most recent summits have engaged strongly in the rhetoric that LGBT people are Nazis and that Christians are America’s version of the persecuted European Jews. This verbiage has all but called for violent action against LGBT people.
- Another evil, but legally informed entity, the Westboro Baptist “Church,” has always been more a group of subversive lawyers than it has been a church. They have given lawyers such as McLaughlin a roadmap on how to twist the US judicial system and use it as a shield to deliver hate speech and create terror and humiliation with the blessing of the legal system.
- Organizing and collecting hundreds of thousands of signatures, even just to be maliciously leveraging the process, requires a plan and a team. Is it a mere coincidence that Scott “Crimes Against Humanity” Lively, the man who worked with Uganda’s Kill-the-Gays intiative, is now moving operations to Riverside California, of all places? To quote Dana Carvey’s Church Lady… “How convenient!” Is it also a coincidence that there he is establishing a “coffee house” series of outposts building a “team of community missionaries to carry on” where he can’t be in California? Can you imagine the collection of kill-the-gays initiative signature gathering happening and Lively NOT being involved if he was here? Nor can I.
- View the film Jesus Camp and contemplate the militia that has been hiding in the shadows in America for years looking for their call to “valor.”
- Gun toting radicals like Steven Anderson are a short drive away from California. What effort do you think they would put into signature gathering once that part of the process hit a green light?
Kamala Harris is working with the courts to try to halt the proposed initiative from moving forward. Her justification is unfortunately weak. She states that the proposal would be unconstitutional and would divide the public. This is where McLaughlin’s knowledge of process would be sound — what controversial proposal to change the constitution WOULD not be at the outset “unconstitutional” and “divisive”?
The situation calls into discussion the very heart of terrorism at its worst. The horrors and atrocities are short-term effects. The worst that terrorism does is force us to bastardize our freedoms and liberties in order to fight it. By guarding ourselves from it, we give up part of our own democracy, which arguable is the ultimate goal of the terrorist, for us to do just that.
We have a process in California that is designed to put law making close to the hands of the people. Some evil people are now twisting the system that supports that to be able to unleash a campaign of threats and humiliation against our LGBT population. The effect will be volatile. People will strike back at a calm request to legalize their annihilation. The more volatile that retaliation is, the more martyred the Right will claim to be — attacked while exercising their due process.
I believe that the governor must ask the federal courts, or the justice department to step in to our system. We need protection that an election process cannot itself inflict civil rights violations and harm. It is an unprecedented move, but then, never in the history of the United States has an initiative to willfully murder a portion of the population been the open question.
Large organized religion, even the progressive sects, must be called upon to condemn and vilify all who support this atrocity in any way. Already, the complete silence is deafening.
At the end of this process, should it move forward as it is set, when the initiative ultimately does fail, as it will, what then? Will those who have roamed our streets and rationally discussed shooting us dead just calmly pick up their duds, call it a day, and head out of town? I doubt it.
For even though they will have been twisting and bastardizing our legal process against us, when it no longer serves them, they will remind us that THEY are not beholden to it. We have seen precedent how the leaders of social conservatism operate. They put out the rhetoric as they did with abortion issues, but when those who listen to them kill people in clinic bombings, they disavow any culpability in the actions of those inspired by their directives. After having conditioned themselves for months that their position is “reasonable’” and the kill-the-gays grass root workers get the news that our law system will not set them up to legally slaughter us, they may not take “no” for an answer.
They will remind us, as they aim their pistols, that theirs is a calling from a whole other mandate.
That is the scariest thing of all.
Pic: Flickr/South Vancouver CPC