March 1, 2016
House Passes Unconstitutional, Discriminatory Bill to Try to Gut Animal Welfare Advocacy
By a vote of 56 to 26, the Oklahoma state House of Representatives approved a bill to undercut core First Amendment protections and prohibit “animal rights organizations” from soliciting the support of Oklahomans. H.B. 2250, sponsored by Rep. Brian Renegar, D-McAlester, and Rep. John Enns, R-Enid, would deny the rights of Oklahoma families to make their own philanthropic choices.
“This bill would make it a crime for Girl Scouts to raise money by selling lemonade and donating it to the Humane Society of the United States to support disaster response in Kansas after a flood or tornado, fight the dog meat trade in South Korea, or stop the clubbing of seals in Canada,” said Cynthia Armstrong, Oklahoma state director of The HSUS. “It is so absurdly overreaching that it would bar any Oklahoma animal organization from lobbying to strengthen our anti-cruelty law or to fight a bill to repeal our state’s anti-cockfighting law.”
H.B. 2250 is demonstrably unconstitutional, and amounts to a waste of taxpayer money to clog the courts with this content-based restriction on speech. The bill if enacted could open the door to restrict the work of other philanthropic organizations—including health organizations and churches who support in-state work as well as missions overseas to help the poor and the needy.
“Our legislators are attempting to defund an entire category of work that helps billions of animals throughout the world every year – not with tax dollars, but with the hard-earned dollars of Oklahomans who choose to spend their money as they wish,” added Armstrong. “Big Government should not tell private Oklahoma citizens how to spend their money or what causes they can support."
A clause declaring an emergency, or calling for immediate enactment, fell short of the two-thirds vote required and was defeated.
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