Politics and Policy:

  • Big news in Oklahoma! It looks like the Gamecock breeders have received a reprieve!!! NewsOK.com is reporting that A judge in McCurtain County temporarily blocked enforcement of Oklahoma’s ban on cockfighting Friday, saying the law recently approved by voters may be unconstitutional. Here’s the details:

      Judge blocks cockfighting ban2002-11-08

      IDABEL (AP) – A judge in McCurtain County temporarily blocked enforcement of Oklahoma’s ban on cockfighting Friday, saying the law recently approved by voters may be unconstitutional.

      District Judge Willard Driesel signed an order in Idabel barring state officials and sheriffs of McCurtain, Pushmataha and Choctaw counties from enforcing the law until a hearing Nov. 18.

      The law passed Tuesday “causes this court great concern” about its constitutionality, Driesel’s order said. The ban could also cause the state’s roughly 50,000 cockfighters irreparable harm, the order said.

      It was not clear whether Driesel’s order – which had been sought by the Oklahoma Game Fowl Breeders Association – blocked enforcement statewide or just in the counties mentioned. Driesel declined to comment.

      The law, which was to take effect Friday at 5 p.m. after the state Election Board certified results, allows prison terms of up to 10 years and fines up to $25,000 for anyone keeping or training roosters for fighting. Possession of cockfighting paraphernalia, like the sharp spurs placed on the birds’ feet, is also banned.

      Tulsa attorney Larry Oliver, who represents the association, requested the restraining order on behalf of eight breeders who live in the southeast Oklahoma counties.

      Oliver was driving back from Idabel and could not be reached for comment, his office said. Association president James Tally did not immediately return a phone call.

      Gov. Frank Keating, who supported the cockfighting ban, said he believes the legal challenge will be resolved quickly.

      Keating said he believes it is “constitutionally suspect” for a judge to question the constitutionality a proposal overwhelmingly approved by voters.

      The association has complained that the law is unclear about whether breeders can legally sell their birds or keep them as pets. Others said they may be forced to slaughter their birds or risk arrest during a court fight.

      “I’d hate to go out there and destroy these chickens,” said Devin Smith, who owns about 100 birds in Cleveland County. “I don’t know if that’s legal also, if there’s some kind of animal cruelty law I’d be violating.”

      Cynthia Armstrong, whose Oklahoma Coalition Against Cockfighting led the campaign to ban the blood sport, said she was confident the law is constitutional.

      “A vote of the people means something,” Armstrong said. “The state has an obligation to enforce the law. These kinds of stalling tactics by the game fowl breeders are just desperate measures.”

      Attorney General Drew Edmondson has said his office will leave enforcement of the ban up to local officials, many of whom say privately that they have more important tasks than chasing cockfighters.

      The law passed largely on overwhelming support in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties, where votes for the ban exceeded those against it by about 138,000. The ban passed by just 124,000 votes statewide.

      Specifically, Driesel said he was concerned the law may violate the Constitution by:

      -Being too vaguely worded to inform citizens of what’s prohibited and what’s allowed;

      -Prohibiting activities protected by the Constitution;

      -Interfering with interstate commerce;

      -Depriving citizens of property without compensation;

      -Infringing upon protected economic rights.

      The petition names McCurtain County Sheriff Mike Willeby, Pushmataha County Sheriff Elvin Flood, Choctaw County Sheriff Lewis Collins, District Attorney Virginia Sanders, the state and the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation as defendants.

      Sanders, who would represent herself and the sheriffs in her district, could not be immediately reached for comment on Friday. A call to the OSBI was not immediately returned.

    As to lame duck Governor Keating’s opinion, I think he is wrong. This fight ain’t over yet.

    Also as to folks saying that you shouldn’t overturn a vote of the people, frankly we live in a republic not a democracy. That means that the rights of the minority (in this case folks who like cockfighting, or at least respect the right of the sport to be participated in) are protected from the will of the majority. Think about it, what if a referendum vote outlawed free speech for unpopular opinions? What is the difference?

  • NewsOK: Breeders pledge to keep fowl despite vote