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English issue not riding into sunset as Texas considers measure

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November 17, 2010

By Al Ortiz

AUSTIN, Texas: Oklahoma's State Question 751, which appeared on the November 2, 2010 general election ballot, won the approval of voters who sought to make English the official language of the state. The measure has since been met with a legal challenge that is currently ongoing, but could make for an interesting series of events in the Sooner State. As the developments in Oklahoma continue, Texas is following the efforts of their neighbors to the north, as House Joint Resolution 38 was pre-filed with the Texas Legislature on November 16, 2010.

This Texas two-step mirrors it's SQ 751 counterpart, as the measure would make English the official language of the state and would also mandate that government business be done in English. State Representative Leo Berman, who filed the measure, said that the proposal would also make all state documents published in English-only. The proposed constitutional amendment would appear on the November 8, 2011 general election ballot if approved by the state legislature. A 2/3rds vote in both chambers of the Texas State Legislature is required to refer an amendment to the ballot. Legislative session begins in January 2011.[1]

On November 9, 2010, a lawsuit was filed in Tulsa County District Court against the previously mentioned Oklahoma State Question 751, making it the second of three Oklahoma measures to be challenged in court. James C. Thomas, a Tulsa attorney and University of Tulsa law professor, filed the lawsuit. According to Thomas, the measure violates free speech, which is held in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the free speech clause of the Oklahoma Constitution. Thomas stated, "This English only takes away the right to speak of all public officials of Oklahoma. They cannot render service ... in any language other than English."[2]

Oklahoma State Representative Randy Terrill stated that the amendment passed with the largest margin of the 11 state questions that were on the ballot. He pointed this out as proof that the measure is the will of the voters. According to Terrill, "This is just another frivolous lawsuit filed by a liberal law professor trying to forum shop for a judge willing to thwart the will of the people."[3]

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