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Federal judge blocks Kentucky governor’s COVID-19 travel ban
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Federal judge blocks Kentucky governor’s COVID-19 travel ban

A federal judge ruled Monday against Kentucky Governor Andrew Beshear’s ban on out-of-state travel for Kentucky residents.

The ban, which was issued in executive order 2020-258, prohibited Kentucky residents from traveling to any other state in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. It did, however, provide an exception for certain out-of-state travel, including travel to render care as a healthcare professional and travel to care for the elderly or other vulnerable persons.

On Monday US District Judge William Bertelsmen ruled that the ban was unconstitutional because it infringed upon the “firmly established and recognized” right of citizens to engage in interstate travel and imposed criminal penalties on any resident who defied it.

Bertelsmen further explained that, although the state of Kentucky’s interest in reducing the spread of COVID-19 was legitimate, its decision to do so by banning out-of-state travel was too drastic and violated the constitution since it had the effect of prohibiting Kentucky residents from visiting their relatives who live 8 miles away in Ohio for example.

The judge did, however, uphold Beshear’s ban on mass gathering during the pandemic. He ruled that, although the ban on mass gathering has the effect of restricting religious rituals like in-person church services, it does not infringe upon Kentucky residents’ First Amendment rights because the fact that these gatherings are religious is not the reason why they are prohibited.

For more on COVID-19, see our special coverage.