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Tulsa World

Shurden-style law
2002-12-07

Senator hopes to circumvent vote

Not content to abide by the democratic process, state Sen. Frank Shurden and his followers plan legislation that would nullify the cockfighting ban approved by voters last month.

As usual, Shurden and company are using misinformation and scare tactics to prevail.

The ban, which makes cockfighting a felony, passed by a 56 percent margin -- a total of 565,967 votes to 441,220. The ban received more votes than most candidates, including Gov.-elect Brad Henry.

But the majority of voters in 57 of the state's 77 counties rejected the ban, leading political scientists like Shurden to call for a new style of lawmaking largely unheard of in this country.

Shurden proposes to make cockfighting legal in those counties that rejected the ban and to allow for county option in the others. Also, he would bust the felony provision to a misdemeanor so that anyone caught holding cockfights gets only a slap on the wrist.

Shurden and his minions argue that the animal welfare lobby next will target activities like hunting and rodeos. Never mind that even if they tried, it would take a majority of voters to achieve such goals.

Never mind that 47 other states have banned cockfighting -- 27 of which deem it a felony. Never mind that a substantial majority of Oklahomans oppose the activity and want stiff pen alties for it. Never mind that a new federal law banning interstate shipment of fighting birds will greatly impact this perverse "sport." The Frank Shurdens of Oklahoma know better than any of the rest of us.

The logic behind Shurden's thinking can only be described as bizarre. Since when do we toss out the most democratic of American principles, the principle of majority rule, in favor of those who simply do not wish to abide by the outcome of a fair and, by the way, well-publicized election? Many Oklahomans probably don't care for a lot of the initiatives that are now law in Oklahoma, but they go along with the democratic process -- as Americans typically do.

Unfortunately this debate has been cast as a rural vs. urban controversy. It may be that, but so what? Rural interests have managed to dominate this state in many ways -- education and transportation spring to mind -- and not always to the state's benefit. But the urban interests, whether they like it or not, abide by democracy's outcomes.

It's clear the Shurden faction is not going to agree to the democratic way, and it is their right, this being America, to pursue a challenge. We can only hope that wiser and more reasonable minds ultimately prevail.