California—simultaneously celebrated and reviled for its fabled sexual tolerance for the past half-century—has pioneered the use of sexual propositions, ballot initiatives designed to either expand the scope of “obscenity” censorship or to suppress the rights and aspirations of homosexuals. Viewed through the prism of the sexual propositions, the political landscape of California looks quite different than we generally imagine. This article examines the history of these propositions, their financial backers, and the politicians involved with them, including E. Richard Barnes’s Proposition 16, John Briggs’s Proposition 6 (The Briggs Initiative), and William J. “Pete” Knight’s Proposition 22.
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