A group of Oregon business owners and a non-profit filed a lawsuit against Gov. Kate Brown in federal court Tuesday asking a judge to nullify Brown’s stay at home orders, as well as an order that prohibited eating at restaurants, saying that they violate the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.
The non-profit, Open Our Oregon, is named as a plaintiff along with business owners from Portland, Hood River, Beaverton and Roseburg. The complaint isn’t challenging all of Brown’s executive orders, but rather two, saying that “initial fears of exponential growth of the disease have proven unfounded” due to a declining number of cases and that “the entire set of restrictions is not necessary to prevent the overwhelming of health facilities in Oregon.”
Brown issued the executive orders restricting restaurants to take-out only March 16, and stay at home March 23. A projection from the Institute for Disease Modeling in Washington found that Oregon’s social distancing measures prevented more than 70,000 infections, The Oregonian reported in late April. The first phase of restrictions easing will begin May 15, which will allow restaurants in counties that qualify to offer dine-in service.
The plaintiffs claim that Brown’s executive orders that enforce social distancing and restaurant closure violates their 14th Amendment rights to conduct business and violates their due process protections because they couldn’t make the case for why they should remain open. They also allege that Brown “arbitrarily” categorized what businesses are essential, which they say violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
Among the plaintiffs are owners of a tattoo and piercing studio, a 24-hour gym, a liquor store and a retail store that sold lingerie.
In addition allegations that the executive orders are unconstitutional, the plaintiffs allege that Brown’s decision to extend restrictions until July was “not made in a neutral, good faith, and objective manner” but rather for political reasons to “advance [the Democratic] party’s ideology of larger government programs, spending and control over Americans.”
The plaintiffs are asking that the executive orders be reviewed under the strict scrutiny standard, in which there must be a narrow and “compelling government interest” for a government action, according to the Cornell Law School. The strict scrutiny standard is the most thorough and rigorous level of review.
The plaintiffs filed their complaint in the Eugene division of Oregon’s federal district courts.
Correction: A previous version of this article said that the plaintiffs are representing themselves. They are being represented by counsel.