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Oklahoma elections: Republican-backed measures win approval

By Darla Slipke Modified: November 3, 2010 at 8:53 am •  Published: November 3, 2010

Oklahoma voters approved a trio of Republican-backed statewide measures Tuesday.

The measures make English the state's official language, allow Oklahomans to opt out of a health care system and ban Oklahoma courts from considering international or Islamic law for case decisions. They are among 11 state questions voters decided Tuesday.

With 82 percent of precincts counted, yes votes accounted for 76 percent of the official English language measure, 70 percent of the international law measure and 65 percent of the health care opt-out measure.

A Republican majority Legislature overrode Gov. Brad Henry's vetoes of those three measures to get them on Tuesday's ballot.

State Question 751 mandates that official state actions be conducted in English, with a few exceptions. Oklahoma joins about 30 other states that have adopted similar measures, according to Tim Schultz, director of government relations for U.S. English, Inc., a national citizen action group with about 1.8 million members.

Exceptions to the official English language measure would be made for American Indian languages, or if federal law requires the use of other languages.

The measure also prevents lawsuits from being brought against the state or subdivisions of the state if a state agency fails to use a language other than English.

Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, who was involved with rewriting the measure, said English already is essentially the language Oklahoma officials use to conduct business. The measure was intended to protect the state against lawsuits that could be costly to taxpayers, such as a court order that would require the state to provide street signs in another language, Anderson said.

Sen. Harry Coates, R-Seminole, described the initiative as a "meek and mild measure."

"It doesn't have any meat to it," Coates said. "It just says if we're going to do business in Oklahoma, we're going to do it in English."

David Castillo, executive director of the Greater Oklahoma City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said the English-only measure was unnecessary.

"I think it's politicians just trying to make a point with all the immigration issues," Castillo said.

Rey Madrid, president of the Oklahoma City Council of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said he is opposed to the measure because he believes it will cause discrimination and racism.

"Oklahoma, like many other states, is a state of immigrants," Madrid said. "Why try to deny that?"

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