Some say it’s idyllic. Some can’t wait to leave. Still others there want to oppress their neighbors. But this isn’t a tropical island or a Caribbean fiefdom. Welcome to Orange County, home of some of the most vicious battlegrounds of conscience, bigotry, religiosity, fanaticism, and hypocrisy. The most profound roller coasters won’t be found at Disneyland or Knott’s Berry Farm. They’re in the social trends engaged on the streets, in the schools, in clubs, on the beach, and even in law offices. Sometimes Sacramento has to take notice, especially where proposals seek to infringe upon human rights, lest the floodgates of violence open to the whims of extremists in the name of “God” and “conscience”.
An example of Orange County’s roller coaster of conscience may have been expressed beginning with a 1993 report in the Los Angeles Times:
“In the most recent FBI crackdown on individuals linked to the skinheads, two of the eight people arrested had attended Marina High School in Huntington Beach, and several illegal guns were sold to undercover agents at a shooting range there. The Fourth Reich Skinheads, whose members allegedly planned to foment a race war by attacking prominent minority figures, held meetings in Huntington Beach.”1
Twenty years later the same school, Marina High, elected the trans youth Cassidy Lynn Campbell to homecoming queen. Was this a complete about-face for Marina High and Huntington Beach? Hardly. Ms. Campbell’s election stood for something beyond her, something typically not emphasized on the transgender pageant circuit. Said Ms. Campbell, “But with all the attention, I realized it’s bigger than me,” she said. “I’m doing this for the kids who can’t be themselves.”2
Her words may have had greater significance than even she realized. Why can so many kids not be themselves?
Perhaps Ms. Campbell’s own experience could tell some of it. Though she proudly stood on the field as a homecoming queen she also received taunts against her by bullies near and far. Huntington Beach had not shed its ugly past of hate by a longshot.3
Her election came a year and a half after the California Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit, ruled in the case of Hollingworth v. Perry in which the panel of judges declared 2-1 that Proposition 8, the statewide ban on same sex marriage was unconstitutional, but stayed the appeal till the State Supreme Court could weigh in. The highest court on July 31, 2012 declined to hear the appeal, so the Appellate ruling stood. Strong emotions kicked up throughout California on both sides of the issue and in some cases, the election of Cassidy Lynn Campbell stood as a further slap in the face of people who opposed any kind of LGBT presence.4
Further trouble would erupt just on the other side of downtown Huntington Beach, and this would shake Sacramento. Matthew Gregory McLaughlin, an attorney using a rented mailbox on Beach Boulevard instead of a brick and mortar office, submitted an initiative to the Attorney General’s office for the ballot. Snopes.com describes the initiative thus:
“A Huntington Beach attorney who credits the Bible with helping him become an honor student is pushing for a state ballot measure to put the Scriptures in the hands of public school students as a literary text. Matt McLaughlin received approval from the secretary of state’s office to begin gathering signatures for the King James Bible as Textbook initiative, which would amend the Constitution to allow teachers to use the Bible in literature classes. ‘Even if you don’t believe its teachings, you’ll agree that it includes rich usage of the English language,” he said. “That’s what makes it good literature.’ Under the proposal, classroom Bible reading would still be voluntary, and students could substitute another text, said McLaughlin.”5
Of course, Orange County public schools have been using the Bible in literature classes as voluntary reading for decades and scarcely a school library doesn’t have at least one copy. He never did get the half million signatures required for that initiative, perhaps because most voters didn’t see any special need for it. But almost a year and a half after Cassidy’s election as Marina High’s homecoming queen he submitted another, genuinely disturbing initiative, paying the required $200 fee. Here’s the text of that initiative:
SODOMITE SUPPRESSION ACT
Penal Code section 39
a) The abominable crime against nature known as buggery, called also sodomy, is a monstrous evil that Almighty God, giver of freedom and liberty, commands us to suppress on pain of our utter destruction even as he overthrew Sodom and Gomorrha [sic].
b) Seeing that it is better that offenders should die rather than that all of us should be killed by God’s just wrath against us for the folly of tolerating-wickedness in our midst, the People of California wisely command, in the fear of God, that any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification be put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method.
c) No person shall distribute, perform, or transmit sodomistic propaganda directly or indirectly by any means to any person under the age of majority. Sodomistic propaganda is defined as anything aimed at creating an interest in or an acceptance of human sexual relations other than between a man and a woman. Every offender shall be fined $1 million per occurrence, and/or imprisoned up to 10 years, and/or expelled from the boundaries of the state of California for up to life.
d) No person shall serve in any public office, nor serve in public employment, nor enjoy any public benefit, who is a sodomite or who espouses sodomistic propaganda or who belongs to any group that does.
e) This law is effective immediately and shall not be rendered ineffective nor invalidated by any court, state or federal, until heard by a quorum of the Supreme Court of California consisting only of judges who are neither sodomites nor subject to disqualification hereunder.
f) The state has an affirmative duty to defend and enforce this law as written, and every member of the public has standing to seek its enforcement and obtain reimbursement for all costs and attorney’s fees in so doing, and further, should the state persist in inaction over 1 year after due notice, the general public is empowered and deputized to execute all the provisions hereunder extra-judicially, immune from any charge and indemnified by the state against any and all liability.
g) This law shall be known as “The Sodomite Suppression Act” and be numbered as section 39 in Title 3 of the Penal Code, pertaining to offences against the sovereignty of the state. The text shall be prominently posted in every public school classroom. All laws in conflict with this law are to that extent invalid.6
Apart from the radical nature of this verbiage, one may immediately spot the lack of clarity in its definition of “sodomistic propaganda.” “Anything aimed at creating an interest in or an acceptance of human sexual relations other than between a man and a woman” presumes upon lawmakers that male and female must already be defined by the gender dichotomy imposed by Evangelicals and that without allowing that sexes exist other than typical males and females as churches define them or that anyone can possibly transition from one to the other. It not only begs the question with respect to definitions, but also would establish that Evangelical definition in state law.
Not only would homosexuals be criminalized as “sodomites” but also potentially those in transition not recognized by radical Evangelicals as male or female as well as intersex individuals, the existence of which remain far more than Evangelical institutions generally admit. For that matter, a student like Cassidy would have been easily targeted with such a law had it ever been allowed to pass the electorate and the scrutiny of the courts.
But this initiative proposed something even more insidious: that the public can on its own terms override the decisions of the courts, carry out the cowboy justice of lynching and be reimbursed for their trouble. The right of all to a fair trial can’t happen in kangaroo courts by mobs this initiative would have authorized. Such a court, designed according to the typically wrong conventional perceptions concerning transpeople, would inevitably turn against any family members sympathetic to transpeople as well. The established courts would sooner or later lose their judicial restraint upon an inflamed public.
Most initiatives, once submitted, go to the process of collecting signatures. The Attorney General’s office would have had until May 4, 2015 to issue a title and summary. Mr. McLaughlin would then need to collect 365,880 signatures over the following 180 days or 5% of the amount who voted in the previous gubernatorial election.7
But Attorney General Kamala Harris did something unprecedented in response to this. On March 25, 2015 she “issued a statement decrying the proposal, and vowed to seek a court order to avoid her legal obligation to issue a ‘title and summary’” Chrisian Farisa in The New Republic criticized the Attorney General for her filing suit, claiming that giving credence to something so obviously unconstitutional on its face could only make matters worse.8
Could the politics of a senatorial run have influenced the Attorney General’s decision? Of course they did. But Kamala Harris doesn’t shy away from a fight when it came to civil rights either. She said, “This proposed act is the product of bigotry, seeks to promote violence, is patently unconstitutional and has no place in a civil society.”9
The uproar over this initiative went so far as for some to call for Mr. McLaughlin to be condemned and disbarred. His law school, Virginia’s George Mason Law School weighed in on the matter with a statement of its own after being called upon to condemn Mr. McLaughlin. Dean Daniel Polsby issued this statement:
“Some correspondents have called upon the law school to repudiate this initiative – and Mr. McLaughlin. With respect, we must decline, as it is not the function of schools or other institutions to denounce things with which they have nothing to do. Law schools are not guarantors of the views or acts of their former students. No one ever suggested that Harvard Law School should repudiate the treason of Alger Hiss, or that the University of Puget Sound law school should disclaim murders committed by Ted Bundy. Responsibility for those crimes belongs to the criminals, not to the schools they attended. The same principle applies here. Mr. McLaughlin must answer for himself, and not we answer for him, concerning what he says or does. Of course individuals, speaking for themselves, remain free to express their own opinions if they so choose.”10
A letter from Dane Dauphine of the State BAR of California Office of the Chief Trial Counsel Intake on May 5, 2015 that the BAR rejected all complaints against Mr. McLaughlin that had called for him to be disbarred for submitting the Sodomite Suppression Act. The letter, the actual body of which is concealed may be found on Mr. McLaughlin’s website.11
Mr. McLaughlin’s website offers some insight concerning one who has been widely regarded as a shadowy attorney. The rhetoric offered therein is like the inflammatory verbiage that might be found from the fanatical wing of Southern Baptists. When Mr. McLaughlin submitted the Sodomite Suppression Act to the Attorney General’s office, some of us felt suspicious of input from the anti-LGBT Pacific Justice Institute who has a dedicated satellite office at Trinity Law School in Santa Ana.12
But Mr. McLaughlin decried Pacific Justice Institute this way:
“Nevertheless, I believe that people will be rewarded one day for taking a public stand for the truth of God’s word. McCartney [who had offered an amicus brief in the case filed by the Attorney General] actually tried to help – whereas the flaky idiots at ‘Save California’ and the ‘Pacific Justice Institute’ both publicly denounced the Sodomite Suppression Act and proclaimed that it is their goal to live together in ‘tolerance’ with the wicked sodomites.”13
The Pacific Justice Institute and Trinity Law School, has ties to the Evangelical Free Church, Calvary Chapel, and other large churches of the Evangelical Alliance in Southern California. While these churches oppose LGBT, all have had no trouble with civil interaction with the same and this writer has visited such churches at various times openly as a transperson without incident. Mr. McLaughlin decries any such interaction, citing certain Bible verses on his website as litmus tests of fellowship not only in ecclesiastical matters, but in civil matters as well.14
On June 22, Judge Raymond Cadei of the Superior Court at Sacramento blocked the initiative. Attorney General Harris took a risk in bringing suit and missing her May 4 deadline for the title and summary. Judge Cadei said, compelling the Attorney General to issue a title and summary would be “inappropriate, waste public resources, generate unnecessary divisions among the public and tend to mislead the electorate.”15
So the initiative was quashed and cannot be resubmitted. For the first time ever in California an initiative was found unconstitutional before it even gathered signatures. Since then Sacramento has sought ways to update its process for initiatives to prevent something like this to be submitted in the future including the rise of the filing fee from $200 to $2000.16
Why would an attorney even consider an initiative like this while maintaining such a conspicuously low profile in the first place? Snopes.com suggested that he did this for the purpose of advertising.17
But to whom would such extreme “advertising” be directed?
Extreme advertising can only attract extremists. Orange County has a long history of extremism since before its founding in 1889. The Ku Klux Klan controlled the Anaheim City Council, claiming 4 out of 5 seats till a recall in 1924 led by the anti-Klan USA Club. But 300 Klansmen lived in Anaheim, patrolling the streets in robes and masks and commanded 20,000 at a rally when it was at its height of influence. More recently, the Ku Klux Klan formed the epicenter of a disturbance at Anaheim’s Pearson Park in 2016 in which 3 had been wounded and several arrests made.18
But in the 1990’s people commonly spotted skinheads with tattoos in Huntington Beach. Other cities like Fullerton and Santa Ana had been noted as hotbeds of White supremacy as well. But since that time White supremacists have been less visible. In the 1990’s 858 White supremacist groups flourished nationwide and then dropped to about 150 in 2000. Then in 2008 the number shot up skyward, reaching 1,274 in 3 years: more than 8 times over.19
So where do we find them? David Whiting of the OC Register offered the following:
“After being arrested, harassed and mocked, some Neo-Nazis moved, most went clandestine… Consider the music festivals called Aryan Fest. Page’s old Orange County band, Youngland, performed at the festival in 2004. Such widely publicized events are now underground…
Tom Metzger is the self-styled godfather of modern white supremacy. After founding ‘California Knights of the Ku Klux Klan,’ he founded WAR in Southern California. Metzger reportedly said he was a fan of Youngland. … Now based in Indiana, Metzger has a radio show, a webzine called ‘The Insurgent’ and prefers rifles over handguns: ‘I really could hit the enemy in the head all day long at 200 yards.’ Metzger offers: ‘Anyone is capable of being a lone wolf.’”20
There’s no evidence that Matthew McLaughlin is an actual member of a White supremacist organization, the time, place, form of rhetoric. But his rhetoric would be consistent with the “Alt-Right” site Breitbart. Mr. McLaughlin’s appeal would certainly work in that direction. The shadowy nature the attorney has assumed coupled with his rhetoric could cause anyone to question if he may have been influenced by White supremacist ideology of the sort that typically becomes coupled with the rhetoric of fanatics from within the Southern Baptist communion.
Or, perhaps as Kapya Kaoma of Political Research Associates observed, the simple fact of filing this would lend to news buzz floating around missionary hotbeds like Africa in which laws making homosexuality a capital crime are seriously being entertained, to give assurance that if Americans are considering such a law, then it must have such credibility to be accepted in the “third world.”21
More importantly as concern American trends in the time of the Trump Administration in which Breitbart’s Steve Bannon has been given a high position, White supremacy has been given high federal influence on a silver platter. Plenty of Neo-Nazis, Klansmen, Skinheads, and other White supremacists have become emboldened to commit crimes against minorities consistent with their histories of bloody oppression. Transpeople have found themselves in the burning cross hairs, evident in anti-transgender literature attributed to the Ku Klux Klan in Dothan, Alabama and attributed later in other places also.22
Consider the “Religious Liberty Bill” proposed by Senator Ted Cruz at the federal level, permitting discrimination in the name of a professed religion. The placement of such a law no doubt would open the possibility of initiatives, even actual bills with some elements of the Sodomite Suppression Act appearing in other states in which Evangelical Christianity dominates.
But would such laws open up to lynch mobs? Consider what happened in the Russian Federation after passage of its “Anti-Gay Propaganda Law” that approached “propaganda” much like the Sodomite Suppression Act did. The rise of Russian mobs emboldened by such a law would also happen in the United States and no shortage of troublemakers already lie in wait. To whom did Mr. McLaughlin appeal in what Snopes.com described as “advertisement”? Clearly he appeals to these.
Such mobs no doubt consider their acts of harassment, injury, torture, and killings automatically justified. Evangelical Christian churches always needed enemies to establish religious fervor through fear that outsiders were basically malicious and out to harm them. The same regard their “morality” to be divinely commanded and not to be questioned, even if what moral theory a denomination may entertain has filtered through their respective religious leaders, some of which exhibit radical leanings as dangerous as the most inflammatory imams. These have always desired domination of the United States and consequently the world, to fully Christianize by force.
The United States by accepting this application of force can expect a future of violence. It would be a violence of a sort that brings out the worst in human bigotries that justify killing with help from the courts or without them. Such killings would smile upon antisocial White supremacism, which is really a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant “Straight” Patriarchy that defines its own versions of socialization to the exclusion of all others. Executions would disregard any moral theories other than its own while smiling upon open atrocities and few would dare call it murder.
- Gewertz, Catherine. Huntington Beach: Skinhead Capital of the County? (July 25, 1993) Web: Los Angeles Times: http://articles.latimes.com/1993-07-25/local/me-16750_1_huntington-beach. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
- Sewell, Abby and Flores, Adolfo. Transgender teen crowned homecoming queen at O.C. high school (September 12, 2013) Web: Los Angeles Times: http://articles.latimes.com/2013/sep/20/local/la-me-ln-transgender-homecoming-queen-20130920. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
- Daily Mail Reporter. Transgender California girl elected homecoming queen of her high school only to be bullied to tears after ceremony (September 21, 2013) Web: Daily Mail, UK: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2428812/Cassidy-Campbell-elected-homecoming-queen-Transgender-California-girl-ridiculed-ceremony.html. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
- (n.a.) Hollingworth v. Perry (n.d.) Web: Oyez: https://www.oyez.org/cases/2012/12-144. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
- Mikkelson, David. Sodomite Suppression Act (n.d.) Web: com: http://www.snopes.com/politics/sexuality/sodomite.asp. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
- McLaughlin, Matt. Initiative 15-0008 (February 26, 2015) Initiative Coordinator, Attorney General’s Office.
- (n.a.) California’s “Sodomite Suppression” Initiative (2016) (n.d.) Web: Ballotopedia: https://ballotpedia.org/California_%E2%80%9CSodomite_Suppression%E2%80%9D_Initiative_(2016). Retrieved January 28, 2017.
- Farias, Christian. A California Lawyer Wants to Put Gays to Death. Why Isn’t the Attorney General Ignoring Him? (March 26, 2015) Web: New Republic: https://newrepublic.com/article/121383/california-sodomite-suppression-act-proposes-death-penalty-gays. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
- Branson-Potts, Hailey. Proposed ‘Sodomite Suppression Act’ calling for killing of gays (June 23, 2015) Web: Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-antigay-sodomite-suppression-act-struck-down-20150623-story.html. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
- Zywicki, Todd. George Mason Law School’s position on the “Sodomite Suppression Act” proposal (March 26, 2015) Web: Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/03/26/george-mason-law-schools-position-on-the-sodomite-suppression-act-proposal/?utm_term=.26f422c90380. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
- McLaughlin, Matthew Letter from Dane C. Dauphine, Inquiry Number 15-13542 dated May 5, 2015 (n.d.) Web: Matthew Gregory McLaughlin, Christian Lawyer-Huntington Beach CA. https://matthewgregorymclaughlin.wordpress.com/tag/kamala-harris/page/2/. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
- The writer has seen the office of Pacific Justice Institute on the first floor of Trinity Law School in a visit in 2014 and was told that law students from the school do work through the PJI office there.
- McLaughlin, Matthew [Update] Citizen tries to file ‘Amicus’ in Sodomite Suppression Act case (June 15, 2015) Op. cit.
- Chabria, Anita. California ‘Kill the Gays’ ballot blocked (June 23, 2015) Web: The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jun/24/california-court-blocks-kill-the-gays-bill. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
- McGreevy, Patrick. California lawmakers vote to raise initiative fee from $200 to $2,000 (August 17, 2015) Web: Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/local/political/la-me-pc-california-lawmakers-vote-to-raise-initiative-fee-20150817-story.html. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
- Mikkelson, com
- Queally, James and Grad, Shelby. The Ku Klux Klan’s ugly, violent history in Anaheim (February 27, 2016) Web: Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-the-ku-klux-klan-ugly-violent-history-in-anaheim-20160227-story.html. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
- Whiting, David. Troubling trends in O.C.’s white supremacy movement (October 14, 2012; Updated August 21, 2013) Web: OC Register: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/white-374363-orange-county.html. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
- Kaoma, Kapya. California’s “Shoot the Gays” Ballot Initiative Serves as a Permission Slip for African Conservatives (May 22, 2015) Web: Political Research Associates: http://www.politicalresearch.org/2015/05/22/californias-shoot-the-gays-ballot-initiative-serves-as-permission-slip-for-african-conservatives/#sthash.s9NcPns7.DlegLXuh.dpbs. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
- Edgemon, Erin. Ku Klux Klan distributes anti-transgender fliers in at least 1 Alabama neighborhood (May 24, 2016) Web: com: http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2016/05/ku_klux_klan_distributes_anti-.html. Retrieved January 31, 2017.