Illinois GOP appeals decision upholding limits on gatherings amid pandemic

The GOP in Illinois is poised to fight back against a recent ruling by a federal judge.

The Washington Examiner reports that the Illinois Republican Party is moving to appeal a decision upholding Democrat Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s coronavirus-related restrictions on the size of gatherings allowed in the state.

GOP challenges ruling

As the Examiner noted, Illinois Republicans brought a lawsuit against Pritzker last month, asserting that the governor’s restrictions on gathering size violated their First Amendment rights at the same time that he was publicly participating in mass protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Pritzker placed limits on the size of gatherings in his state, including church services, purportedly in the name of coronavirus prevention. These restrictions, however, remained in place at the same time that he allowed and even participated in social justice demonstrations which regularly drew more people than his own edicts would permit.

This glaring double standard is what the Illinois Republican Party, along with the Schaumburg Township Republican Organization and the Northwest Side GOP, challenged in court.

“The fact is that a Black Lives Matter rally is no different scientifically or constitutionally from a Republican rally,” Daniel Suhr, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, said, according to the Examiner. “The only difference is the content of the speeches being given. There’s no scientific or medical basis for treating the two differently and that’s really the heart of our case.”

Decision rendered

U.S. District Judge Sara Ellis of the Northern District of Illinois, however, disagreed and ruled against the plaintiffs.

“Plaintiffs allege that by exempting the free exercise of religion from the general gathering limit, the Governor has created an unconstitutional content-based restriction on speech,” Ellis said, according to the Examiner. ”Plaintiffs also claim that by not enforcing the Order against protestors following the death of George Floyd, the Governor has created another exception.”

She continued: “Granting Plaintiffs the relief they seek would pose serious risks to public health. The number of COVID-19 infections continues to rise across the United States, which has led some states to recently impose greater restrictions on gatherings and activities.”

It’s not over

The lawyers representing the Illinois GOP called the decision “disappointing,” but said that they are “immediately appealing” it.

It is anyone’s guess what will happen as the matter moves to the appellate level, but similar legal challenges are being brought in jurisdictions across the country against restrictions of this sort, and last month in New York, a federal judge ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor in just such a case, as National Review noted.

The next court date in the Illinois case has yet to be set, and whether the Republicans will ultimately prevail remains to be seen.

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