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The Oklahoman

Senator pushes county option on cockfighting

Oklahoma Sen. Frank Shurden said Thursday he will introduce legislation that would make cockfighting legal in counties that voted down a statewide question to outlaw the sport.

Shurden, D-Henryetta, said his bill also would allow counties that approved the ban to call their own, subsequent elections on cockfighting.

A majority of voters in 57 of Oklahoma's 77 counties were against banning cockfighting, although statewide a majority of voters favored the ban.

Cockfighting supporters took their case to court. So far, the legal battles have barred enforcement in 15 counties in southeast and eastern Oklahoma.

"The one good thing is that it (November's election) wasn't a constitutional amendment," Shurden said. "That means we can go back during the session and amend what is obviously a badly written law."

Cockfighting supporters reacted to Shurden's announcement with cautious optimism. Opponents vowed to fight any attempt to weaken the law.

The Oklahoma Coalition Against Cockfighting noted Thursday the ban passed by a 124,000-vote margin.

Group member Cynthia Armstrong said the measure would allow only selected enforcement of the ban.

"Shurden's measure is an attack on the democratic process and the policy of decision- making by a majority vote," Armstrong said.

"Perhaps we should change the way laws are established by the state Legislature. Perhaps laws passed by the Legislature should be only enforced in areas where representatives and senators supported them."

Shurden, meanwhile, said he intends to pursue legislation that would reduce cockfighting from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Armstrong and other cockfighting opponents noted the penalties for cockfighting are the same as they are for the state's anti-dogfighting law.

Legislators start their session work Feb. 3.