AR-News: Top Two OK Newspapers Slam Pro Cockfighting Politicians

Political Animal politicalanimal13 at
Fri May 21 10:49:28 EDT 2004

Oklahoman Editorial: Gutting the ban

NO ONE has been convicted of illegal cockfighting in
Oklahoma. Our prisons aren't crowded with felons
linked to this activity. Just 19 months ago, voters
spoke loudly and clearly on this issue. 

Yet the state Senate on Thursday approved a bill that
reeks of contempt for the voters. It calls for another
public vote, this time to decriminalize cockfighting.
A small group of people who are engaged in what is,
for now, an illegal activity convinced the Senate --
by a three-vote margin -- to help put Oklahoma back
into the ranks of states where cockfighting is

Senate President Pro Tempore Cal Hobson, D-Lexington,
joined the majority. Instead of showing leadership in
respecting the wishes of voters, he voted like a
back-bencher with nothing but contempt for the people.

He and Gov. Brad Henry have much to answer for when it
comes to State Question 687, the referendum that
banned cockfighting. It passed by a comfortable margin
in November 2002. Under Senate Bill 835, the ballot
this November would include a referendum that would
gut SQ 687, making violations of the cockfighting ban
the equivalent of a traffic ticket. 

If SB 835 clears the House of Representatives and the
governor's desk, the nearly five-year battle to ban
cockfighting will enter another phase. A new campaign
will begin to convince voters that they were
uninformed in 2002 when they made cockfighting a

They were not uninformed. They knew exactly what they
were doing. A clear majority voted to ban cockfighting
and establish penalties similar to those for illegal
dogfighting. Yet SB 835 author Sen. Frank Shurden,
D-Henryetta, has been relentless in his effort to gut

House members and Henry must now do what the Senate
lacked the guts to do: Tell Shurden to quit wasting
their time and ballot space with an issue that was
decided by the people only 19 months ago. 


By World's Editorial Writers

Senators thumb their noses at voters

Unbelievably, the state Senate has passed a measure
that will ask voters to approve reductions in
penalties for cockfighting, banned by a landslide vote
of the people two years ago.

What are these senators thinking? Apparently they
weren't. Our only hope now to shed this embarrassing
stigma is for the House to keep this latest outrage
from proceeding further.

Though they had 40 years to make any determination
they saw fit about cockfighting, lawmakers did
nothing. So the people took on the project. After an
arduous initiative petition drive, a protracted court
battle, a landslide statewide vote and resounding
Supreme Court affirmation of the decision,
cockfighting became a felony in Oklahoma. The
cockfighting law is nearly identical to the
dogfighting ban, which doesn't seem to engender

But cockfighters intent on still practicing this

are not content to accept the voters' decision. They
pestered enough lawmakers long enough to get this
latest measure reducing the penalties to misdemeanors
and small fines through the Senate. If the House goes
along with it, then vot ers will be asked this
November to reduce the penalties for the bloodsport to
the legal equivalent of a slap on the wrist.

Whether cockfighting should be a felony or a
misdemeanor is a question about which reasonable minds
can differ.

But the cockfighters' persistence in trying to get the
penalties reduced demonstrates exactly why a felony
threat is needed to discourage would-be law-breakers.

If they plan to abide by the law and refrain from
participating in cockfighting, then they have no
reason to seek reductions in the penalties.

It's bad enough that Oklahoma has endured national
embarrassment for years over this issue. Now we may
have to take on the added stigma of being home to a
political machine that thumbs its nose at the will of
the voters.

The people spoke, and there hasn't been enough
experience with the new law to demonstrate if any
changes in the people's decision are justifiable.

There is only one reason to tinker with the law: to
let cockfighters violate the ban by paying fines that
amount to a small fee for doing business.

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