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Shawnee News-Star

January 24, 2003

It's time for a decision


SNS Executive Editor

When Oklahomans voted last fall on State Question 687 to ban cockfighting, it was not a county option issue. It was submitted as a statewide proposition after a lengthy battle through the courts.

It took more than three years for proponents to get the cockfighting ban on the ballot from the time they began their efforts with the initiative petition up through the vote this past November.

Even though Oklahomans approved the ban, judges in a number of the state's judicial districts are holding up enforcement by granting injunctions issued in response to lawsuits filed by those who support this deadly sport.

A poll conducted recently by Tulsa-based Consumer Logic indicates that Oklahomans believe county voters should have the option of approving or banning cockfighting. However, according to the same poll, they also think that county courts shouldn't be allowed to overturn the statewide election.

Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson has asked the state Supreme Court to declare the ban constitutional. He has sought to consolidate nearly 30 lawsuits filed across the state challenging the Nov. 5 vote on the state question.

Even though 57 of the 77 counties in Oklahoma voted against the ban, the majority of state voters, 565,967 of them, supported the question to ban it. Just because the issue failed to pass in some counties is not grounds for not enforcing it, even though cockfighters and those who raise the fighting chickens are challenging its constitutionality.

This proposition was not submitted as a county option like others have been in the past. It called for a statewide ban, that is what voters understood when they went to the polls and proponents of the ban won fair and square.

Oklahoma was one of only three states in the nation still to allow cockfighting prior to Nov. 5 last year. On that date, it became the 48th state to ban it. It remains legal only in Louisiana and New Mexico and even in some counties in New Mexico it's prohibited.

It's time for the state Supreme Court to rule on this question and make the decision, once and for all. Although the state's highest court didn't rule specifically on the constitutional merits of SQ 687 prior to the election, if it had contained major flaws we believe that the court would have held up the election.

Many of the opponents of the ban fear that their chickens will be confiscated where they are being raised, they will be fined and sent to prison. Realistically, this isn't going to happen, except where cockfights might be taking place. And they should be arrested at the cockfights because that is the real aim of the ban, we believe.

Law enforcement has too many other responsibilities and the courts are so full now of really serious crimes that going around checking on those who breed and raise these birds is not a priority. There are not enough officers and prosecutors to keep up with all of it.

However, we urge the state Supreme Court to rule on this matter quickly to keep it from hanging on indefinitely.