Attorney Matt McLaughlin, an attorney in Huntington Beach, California, is facing a call for disbarment after he filed for a statewide resolution that would legalize the execution of gay people and make it a crime to support gay rights in the state. Anyone can file such papers and, for just $200, force the attorney general to prepare a title and a summary for the proposed new law. The question is whether this despicable act can or should be used for a bar action as conduct that shows that he is not of “good moral character.”
The 2016 initiative, named the “Sodomite Suppression Act”, is awaiting further review by the office of the state attorney general, Kamala Harris, and would mandate “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.” It would also make it a crime to support gay rights, punishable by a $1 million fine and up to 10 years in prison (as well as expulsion from the state). It would also make it illegal to distribute “sodomistic propaganda” to “any person under the age of majority”. Furthermore, being a “sodomite” or distributing “sodomistic propaganda” would disqualify a resident from serving in public office or public employment and from enjoying any public benefit. McLaughlin stated in his proposal that it is “better that offenders should die rather than that all of us should be killed by God’s just wrath”. Suffice it to say, McLaughlin has some serious issues as well as a serious need for psychoanalysis.
However, what he did was the exercise of a legal action with the political system. There is an ironic twist to the notion of his claims of morality being used to establish that he is not of “good moral character.” We have faced this type of issue before. If an attorney does not engage in discriminatory or hateful treatment of clients or witnesses, should he be punished for his political or moral views? I tend to be leery of speech being the basis for criminal or bar sanctions because it is difficult to see where to draw the line. There are many attorneys who engage in political speech as individuals that is deemed insulting to different races or genders.
State senator Ricardo Lara and others have filed a formal complaint with the state bar. It is not clear if any proceeding would bring up past controversies with McLaughlin, including his 2004 proposed initiative to add the King James Bible as a textbook in California public schools. Once again, such efforts are taken in his capacity as a citizen within the political system.
What do you think?