4 NKY men sue Beshear over state ban on mass gatherings
FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX19) - For the third time in two months, Gov. Andy Beshear has been sued over one of his statewide bans during the COVID-19 health emergency.
The latest one is the second lawsuit filed by Northern Kentucky residents.
Four Boone County residents want a federal judge to block the ban on mass gatherings, alleging it violates the First Amendment by restricting protests and threatening punishment.
The four men, Pastor Tony Ramsek, Frank Harris, Theodore Joseph Roberts and Tony Wheatley - all of Crestview Hills - attended a May 2 protest in front of the Kentucky Capitol.
“The legislature is closed," said the men’s attorney, Chris Wiest. "The courts in Kentucky are mostly closed. The only mechanism that people have right now for redress is the right to protest.”
The lawsuit accuses Beshear, the state’s public health commissioner, Steven Stack, and Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Eric Friedlander of limiting how and where people can demonstrate during the pandemic.
The men also are seeking class-action status of their suit.
“This is the second lawsuit we have had to file against the Governor’s orders, with our firm having already had his travel ban and ban on in-person church struck down by the federal courts in the last two weeks," said Wiest.
"While we understand the governor is doing what he thinks is necessary to deal with coronavirus, he must make allowance for fundamental Constitutional rights in his response actions instead of trampling on those rights.”
We are seeking comment from Gov. Beshear’s office and will update this story once we hear back.
Beshear replied Wednesday in his daily media briefing: “We are in the midst of a worldwide health pandemic, and I have put in place orders I believe we’ve needed to save lives.”
The governor added he believes his orders pass constitutional muster.
Beshear has repeatedly said he is not purposely trying to impose orders that will cause hardships, he is simply trying to save lives during an unprecedented health emergency.
“This is not just about the in-person right to gather on the grounds," Wiest explained. "They have also blocked with police cars the roads around the capital. So, the option for a drive around protest, like we have seen in other states, is not an option right now.”
Ramsek, who is one of the plaintiffs, says he be there in-person for another demonstration on May 23.
“He does not have any real accountability other than we the people," said Ramsek. "That is why we are going to have a rally on May 23rd.”
A spokeswoman for Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said Wednesday they are reviewing the lawsuit.
“Attorney General Cameron supports the First Amendment right of Kentuckians to express their opinions on policies they disagree with,” said his spokeswoman, Elizabeth Kuhn.
Cameron, a Republican, has firmly and publicly objected to the Democrat governor’s policies banning out-of-state travel and in-person church services and even asked the federal courts to let him join the litigation.
Campbell County resident Allison Alessandro filed the lawsuit over the travel ban.
The attorney general was named in both of those lawsuits because his office would prosecute people accused of violating the governor’s executive orders.
Judges have since blocked both of those orders, most recently the one restricting in-person church services.
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