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Radical Proposals From State Legislators, Others, Proliferate

Governors in several states this spring backed away from controversial “Religious Freedom Protection Acts” that would have opened the door to discrimination against LGBT people in public accommodations.

Said Indiana Gov. Mike Pence of his last-minute decision to request an amendment to his state’s law after heated boycotts and protests, “I believe resolving this controversy and making clear that every person feels welcome and respected in our state is best.”

Clearly, that sentiment was not shared by Matthew McLaughlin, the obscure California lawyer whose proposed ballot initiative, the “Sodomite Suppression Act,” would make gay sex acts punishable in California by “death by bullets to the head,” ban “sodomistic propaganda,” and bar LGBT people from public employment or benefits. There is virtually no chance that McLaughlin’s clearly unconstitutional proposal will become law. Supporters (assuming there is more than one) would have to collect some 365,000 signatures to even get the proposal on the ballot, and it would surely be rejected. To be extra sure, California Attorney General Kamala Harris asked a court to allow her to block the measure.

Meanwhile, other states went ahead with some of their own bizarre legislative proposals and legal actions — most of which were proposed by elected officials.

• The Arizona Senate on March 10 approved a so-called “Second Amendment Preservation Act” that would bar law enforcement officers from enforcing any “federal act, law, order, rule or regulation” regarding “a personal firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition within” Arizona. The law is almost certainly a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, which says that conflicts between state and federal laws must be resolved in favor of the federal government. It is one of numerous so-called “nullification” statutes working their way through various state legislatures, all of which hang their hats on the dubious legal theory claiming that states have the right to ignore federal laws they consider unconstitutional.

• Oklahoma lawmakers voted to ban Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. History classes in high school because, according to state Rep. Dan Fisher (R), who introduced the “emergency” legislation, it teaches only “what is bad about America.” Not to be outdone, fellow state Rep. Sally Kern (R) asked the state attorney general to bar all AP courses because she considers them similar to Common Core, a set of educational standards that many on the far right see as an attack on freedom. AP courses are not required but can help students save time and money by earning college credit in advance.

• Kern also sponsored a “Freedom to Obtain Conversion Therapy” bill that would explicitly legalize so-called “conversion therapy,” a dangerous and discredited practice aimed at “helping” LGBT people shed their same-sex attractions. The practice already is banned for minors in California, New Jersey and Oregon and in April, President Obama expressed support for outlawing it nationwide.

• In Nevada, Assemblywoman Michele Fiore proposed a “terminally ill bill” that would allow fatally ill patients to use non-FDA-approved treatments. Arguing for her proposal, Fiore said she believes cancer “is a fungus” that can be treated with saltwater and baking soda. She said the bill could make Nevada “the medical capital of the world.”

• The new head of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had to clarify that there is no ban on mentioning the words “climate change,” after the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting published a story quoting numerous former DEP officials who said they had been ordered to avoid the term, along with “sustainability” and “global warming.”