CHICAGO — Fed up with Governor JB Pritzker’s COVID-19 restrictions, the Illinois Republican Party and three local GOP party committees sued over their First Amendment right to assemble Tuesday.
They cite the governor’s own participation in large protests following the killing of George Floyd as evidence the restrictions can be lifted.
“The hypocrisy has to end… Now we see Pritzker continue to restrict funerals, weddings, festivals, sports and political gatherings at the same time that he marches with thousands of protestors on crowded streets,” said Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider.
Pritzker fired back at critics last week, saying it’s important for the governor to stand with protesters, “on issues that are important to the state.”
Responding to news of the lawsuit, the governor’s office said in a statement that Republicans who attended protests against the stay-at-home order were never prevented from exercising their First Amendment rights.
“This is about scoring political points and criticizing civil rights protests supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. The courts have repeatedly upheld the Governor’s executive orders as based on public health guidance,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
The Republican suit notes that religious organizations are exempted from Pritzker’s order and by treating the GOP differently than houses of worship, Pritzker is violating the First Amendment and the 14th Amendment’s equal-protection clause.
“Every American has the right to free speech and the Constitution does not allow this governor to create special exceptions for churches or protesters because they have a high media profile, because they’ve got good lobbyists or because he agrees with their political view point,” said Daniel Suhr, Liberty Justice Center.
Over the weekend, Republicans held their quadrennial convention virtually. The party is arguing there is no substitute for the personal connections to a candidate and media coverage generated by in-person gatherings. The party wants to gather for their annual convention, strategy meetings, and campaign events.
Even under Phase 4 of reopening, groups up to 50 will be allowed but larger gatherings are still banned until there is a vaccine or treatment that is widely available. Republicans say that plan just doesn’t work.