Lawsuits against mask ordinances filed across the country

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Lawsuits over the ordinances making wearing a mask mandatory are popping up in states all across the country as some claim it’s unconstitutional to require people to wear them.

The City Of Memphis joined a growing list of places passing an ordinance requiring masks in public places. There’s no penalty for individuals who don’t comply, but businesses face fines for allowing customers inside without face coverings.

“The Supreme Court has ruled that states can pass forced immunization laws as a preventive measure to prevent the spread of disease,” said Steve Mulroy with the University of Memphis Law School, “and we have state laws here in Tennessee, for example, that authorize the governor or mayors to issue executive orders in time of emergency, and epidemics are on of this listed emergencies.”

Mulroy says businesses can turn people away for not wearing masks. The only exception is those with disabilities. Even then, a merchant may ask you to prove it on the spot.

“Some people claim that the ADA — American With Disabilities Act — gives them the right to go mask-less,” Mulroy said. “That’s actually not the case. A business can require that someone show proof that they are in fact disabled, and if that’s the case then they have to provide them some reasonable accommodation, which could mean you stay outside. We’ll get the item for you.”

Tensions are brewing over the mask requirements and so are the questions. Some believe they’re infringing on people’s rights, and in cities across the country, they’re facing off with their local governments in court. 

Florida state Rep. Anthony Sabatini filed several lawsuits on behalf of his clients in a number of counties.

“I believe in property rights. If people want to require masks on their property, they should. If people don’t want to, they shouldn’t,” Sabatini said. “The government doesn’t need to be coming in telling business owners that they have to tell their own consumers, their own visitors those people should be wearing masks. That’s just too far.”

WREG checked with the Shelby County Chancery Court Clerk’s Office, and so far, there are no known lawsuits filed against the Memphis ordinance.

WREG did get a statement from the Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association, who said, “Adding face covering enforcement certainly adds a level of responsibility, but grocers have responded to the challenge and are abiding by the city’s ordinance.”

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