Oklahoma Liquor Group Planning A Court Challenge To State Question 792

Dec 5, 2016

The Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma is finalizing legal action it promised to take after the passage of State Question 792 in November.

The ballot initiative would change the state's laws to allow wine and cold beer to be sold in grocery and convenience stores, starting in 2018. The Retail Liquor Association’s attorney Ann Gervais Richard told The Journal Record's Molly Fleming the lawsuit could come in the next few weeks:

“We wanted to make sure we thoroughly vetted the issue and everything we wanted in our pleadings,” she said. “There are some differences to (State Question) 792 in its post-election format.”

SQ 792 was approved by 65 percent of voters. It included several changes to Oklahoma’s liquor laws, including eliminating references to 3.2-percent beer, allowing for the sale of cold high-point beer and wine in grocery and convenience stores and the sale of non-alcohol items at retail liquor stores.

She said she’s also evaluating the best court in which to file the lawsuit, whether it’s a case best suited for Oklahoma County District Court or another judicial body.

Retail Liquor Association president Bryan Kerr has repeatedly says the law will treat businesses differently, which he argues violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, and a provision of the Oklahoma Constitution that guarantees due process.

Other state courts have heard a similar equal protection argument regarding liquor sales. A district court in Kentucky once ruled in favor of the grocery stores, but the state’s Supreme Court later overturned the ruling.

Federal equal protection arguments require meeting a burden of proof that claims prejudice based on race or sex. In the 1976 case Craig v. Boren, Oklahoma’s law on selling 3.2-percent beer to males age 21 and older and females age 18 and older did not pass the federal equal protection clause.

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