COVID-19 Special Coverage
Federal judge declares Kentucky mass gathering restriction unconstitutional
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Federal judge declares Kentucky mass gathering restriction unconstitutional

A federal judge found Wednesday that Kentucky’s COVID-19 restriction on mass gatherings is unconstitutional.

On March 19 the Kentucky Secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services instituted an order to slow the spread of COVID-19 by restricting “mass gatherings.” The order provides some exceptions, including transportation stations, medical facilities and shopping centers.

The order does not include any exemption for mass gatherings sparked by protest.

One hundred Kentucky residents assembled on April 15 to protest Governor Andy Beshear’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Kentucky government physically limited the ability of the group to protest by restricting access to the governor’s briefing area and creating barriers on the Capitol’s patio.

Four Kentuckians filed suit against the governor and the response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

In Wednesday’s opinion by Judge George Van Tatenhove, the US District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky recognized that the case was unique. No sanctions had been implemented against the protesters, and the governor stated no legal consequence would be sought against violators. The court found that the plaintiffs still had standing from the proscriptive language of the order.

The court found that Beshear and his administration acted beyond the bounds of the constitution. Tatenhove wrote, “When it comes to restrictions on our liberty, courts must not accept as sufficient whatever explanation is offered. … Even in times of crisis, the Constitution puts limits on governmental action.”

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