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The Associated Press

Shurden wants to lift cockfighting ban

A state senator on Thursday proposed a bill to overturn a cockfighting ban in most of the state's 77 counties.

The blood sport was banned statewide under State Question 687, which was approved in the general election last month by a margin of 124,000 votes.

"Even though State Question 687 passed, 57 counties voted against the ban," said Sen. Frank Shurden, D-Henryetta. "My bill would keep cockfighting legal in those counties."

Cockfighting would remain illegal in the 20 counties that voted for the state question, but Shurden proposed a county-option mechanism that would allow for another vote on a ban in those counties.

Cynthia Armstrong, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Coalition Against Cockfighting, denounced the plan as "a step toward anarchy."

"Perhaps Shurden wants to have two Oklahoma governors and have each one rule in the counties that he won," she added. "Everyone knew that the cockfighting measure was a statewide election done through an initiative mechanism provided by the Oklahoma Constitution."

Janet Halliburton, who led the petition drive that got the issue to the ballot box, said the senator "needs to accept that a solid majority of the people of the state want a ban on the cruel and barbaric practice of cockfighting."

She called the latest proposal "an attack on the democratic process and the policy of decision-making by majority vote."

Shurden had previously announced he would seek to change the penalties for cockfighting from a felony to a misdemeanor. His bill would include that language and remove all penalties for related activities, including raising cockfighting birds.

"I am strongly opposed to making it illegal for law-abiding citizens to raise poultry or livestock," the senator said.

He said the one good thing about the state question "is that it wasn't a constitutional amendment. That means we can go back during the session and amend what is obviously a badly written law. That's exactly what I intend to do."

The Legislature reconvenes in February after a one-day organizational meeting in January.

Enforcement of the cockfighting ban has been delayed by lawsuits in some eastern Oklahoma counties. Attorney General Drew Edmondson has said he will appeal one judge's ruling in an effort to combine the lawsuits into one case.