Capitol Alert

Author of ‘shoot the gays’ ballot measure won’t face discipline

FILE - In this Nov. 16, 2012 file photo, California Attorney General Kamala Harris speaks during a news conference in Los Angeles.
FILE - In this Nov. 16, 2012 file photo, California Attorney General Kamala Harris speaks during a news conference in Los Angeles. AP

Matt McLaughlin, the Huntington Beach attorney behind a controversial proposal to authorize the killing of gays and lesbians, will not face professional discipline, officials said in a letter released Friday.

Carol Dahmen, whose petition to disbar McLaughlin received nearly 140,000 signatures, has been notified by the State Bar of California that it doesn’t plan to pursue the case. “Very disappointing, to say the least,” Dahmen said.

“All speech is not protected. I can't shout 'Fire!’ in a crowded theater if there isn’t any,” she added. “That's a crime. So is inciting a crowd to commit violence.”

In the May 4 letter to Dahmen, Assistant Chief Trial Counsel Dane C. Dauphine wrote that while the bar appreciates her “efforts in opposing bigotry and hate, we also believe that Mr. McLaughlin’s political and social views are not shared by many members of the Bar or by the California community at large.”

“This office is limited, however, in our legal ability to prosecute attorneys who – in their personal capacity – engage in offensive speech,” he states. “This is true even where the speech is hateful and morally reprehensible.”

Moreover, he added that the state’s business and professions code requiring lawyers to abstain from “all offensive personality” was thrown out years ago.

The proposal from McLaughlin has prompted legislation to raise the $200 threshold for submitting a measure. Several lawmakers, including members of the Legislative Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus, also wrote to the State Bar president requesting an investigation into McLaughlin’s fitness to practice law.

Several experts had predicted that officials would not seek to discipline McLaughlin.

Release of the letter comes a day after Attorney General Kamala Harris successfully petitioned a court for more time in her effort to block the measure from moving to the signature-gathering stage. Harris, a Democrat who is running for the U.S. Senate, now has until June 25 as she seeks the judgment.

McLaughlin has not commented to the media. But in an April 2 letter to Harris, he acknowledged receiving a copy of the summons and complaint against him.

“Nevertheless, be advised that I will not be filing a response,” McLaughlin wrote. “Costly litigation is not something that you may require me to incur prior to exercising my rights under both the California Constitution and the initiative statute.”

Then, McLaughlin said that if the Attorney General or Secretary of State refuse to clear his “Sodomite Suppression Act” for circulation, “I may demand as a remedy that it be placed on the election ballot directly.”

Dahmen, who has 90 days to appeal the decision of the Bar, said she is considering her next steps.

Christopher Cadelago: (916) 326-5538 @ccadelago

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