A federal judge refused Saturday requests by the Orlando airport and transit authorities to dismiss a lawsuit challenging their enforcement of mask mandates as violations of Florida law and the state constitution.
The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, which operates Orlando International Airport, and the Central Florida Transportation Authority, which runs the region’s LYNX bus system, had asked U.S. District Judge Paul Byron to dismiss plaintiff Lucas Wall’s claims that the state agencies are requiring passengers to cover their faces in direct defiance of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ May 3 executive order prohibiting any governmental entity from mandating face masks and a June 11 Florida Court of Appeal decision finding public mask mandates are in violation of the Florida Constitution’s privacy clause.
Byron denied GOAA and LYNX’s motions to dismiss in a decision issued Saturday in a case involving not just the two state agencies’ face-covering dictates but also the Federal Transportation Mask Mandate and International Traveler Testing Requirement. Byron sustained Wall’s charges that the Florida transportation agencies are not complying with state law banning mask mandates. He ordered Wall to file a shorter complaint by Jan. 3. Wall said he intends to do so within a couple days.
Because GOAA and LYNX maintain they must comply with the FTMM rather than Florida law, Byron found the U.S. District Court has supplemental jurisdiction to hear Wall’s charges.
“These claims arise out of the same operative nucleus of fact as the FTMM claims because they involve the same series of events: Plaintiff’s inability to board his flight or ride the bus due to the enforcement of the FTMM by the TSA, the GOAA, and LYNX,” Byron wrote. “Consequently, the resolution of these state law claims will involve the same or similar facts, witnesses, and evidence as the FTMM claims – indeed, Counts 17 and 18 rely on the legality of the FTMM, which will raise significant questions of preemption.”
Wall celebrated the decision allowing his claims against GOAA and LYNX’s mask mandates to move toward a final adjudication.
“Gov. DeSantis and the Florida legislature have been outspoken critics of COVID-19 mandates including mask requirements,” Wall said. “Florida is one of only 10 states that never imposed a statewide muzzling order. Yet two state agencies in Orlando are illegally forcing passengers and employees to block their breathing, which is dangerous to human health, discriminatory against the disabled such as myself who medically can’t tolerate having our nose and mouth covered, and clearly illegal under Florida law and the state constitution.”
Wall called on DeSantis and the Florida Attorney General’s Office to order GOAA and LYNX to stop defending their illicit mask rules in court.
“It’s stunning that DeSantis has spoken out dozens of times against any governmental agency – including counties, cities, and school districts – requiring masking, yet the governor allows two state agencies to break the law,” he said. “GOAA and LYNX need to be ordered to stop mandating face coverings immediately. Florida has to defend its sovereign interest under the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to prevent federal interference in its public-health policies.”
Science has shown for decades that face masks do not reduce the transmission of respiratory viruses but actually cause dozens of harms to human health. Wall applauds DeSantis’ strong stance against dangerous mask mandates, but questions why he is allowing GOAA and LYNX to enforce an unconstitutional federal dictate.
The case, Wall v. CDC, began June 2 when Wall – who resides in Washington, D.C., but has been stranded at his mother’s house in The Villages, Florida, due to the mask policies – was denied entry to a security checkpoint at Orlando International Airport to catch a Southwest Airlines flight because he can’t wear a mask due to his Generalized Anxiety Disorder. A LYNX driver then refused to let him board a bus without a mask on.
Wall filed suit June 7 against GOAA, LYNX, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, President Biden, the Transportation Security Administration, and three other federal agencies to end mask and COVID-19 testing requirements.
“Once this case reaches the final merits judgment, I’m confident the court will vacate the illegal and unconstitutional Federal Transportation Mask Mandate as well as GOAA and LYNX’s unlawful decisions to enforce it rather than Florida law,” he said.
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