The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee today easily approved a measure by Sen. Margaret C. Schweinhaut (D-Montgomery) banning cockfighting in the state.
Maryland is one of seven states that allows the fights. Until last fall, when a court ruled otherwise, it was widely assumed that cockfighting was illegal in Maryland under cruelty to animals statutes.
Since then a debate over cockfighting has been raging in the General Assembly, producing one of the more emotional issues of the session. Humane Society representatives have called cockfighting "barbaric" while others, including those who breed gamecocks primarily in Cecil County, say it is a legitimate sport and a rural tradition.
The committee, by a 6-to-2 vote, sided with the Humane Society after Schweinhaut, a committee member, said that "no civilized person" could condone the continuation of an event that locks two gamecocks, outfitted with stainless steel leg spurs, in a death battle.
Sen. Walter M. Baker (D-Cecil County) was the strongest spokesman against the bill. Before casting his vote, Baker said, "A lot of people who support this bill are probably calling on the telephone and saying they support it while they enjoy a nice roast chicken dinner. They want to outlaw the fighting but still eat a nice drumstick."
After the vote, Schweinhaut turned to Baker, who sits next to her in committee to say, "I love you anyway" and she kissed him. He smiled and patted her on the shoulder.
The measure will not become law unless it is approved on the Senate floor and in the House.
In other action, the House approved a resolution today supporting a nuclear freeze, a measure similar to one adopted by the Senate. The House vote was 89 to 38.
Del. Joseph E. Owens (D-Montgomery) said the Maryland legislature should not get involved with the issue of nuclear weapons and nuclear freezes.
"I think we should leave this matter to people who know what they're doing," Owens said of the resolution offered by his Montgomery colleague, Del. Lucille Maurer (D). The resolution asks Congress to direct President Reagan to negotiate a nuclear freeze.
"If there's anybody who doesn't know what they're doing on the issue it's the members of the General Assembly of Maryland," he said. Owens' comment brought Del. Thomas Kernan (D-Baltimore) quickly to his feet.
"Are you suggesting Congress knows what they're doing?" Kernan asked.
"No, no, I don't," Owens responded. "I think they should shut up too, but I'm not there."
Maurer won the debate. "This resolution is to express a concern on behalf of Maryland's citizens," she said. "This is careful to specify that they the administration reach an agreement but how they do it is not specified. The objective is to protect us."
Prince George's Dels. Thomas J. Mooney and Dennis C. Donaldson voted no. Owens cast the only "no" vote from Montgomery County.