State Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R – Howey in the Hills, is the leading the charge in a lawsuit challenging Orange County’s emergency ordinance requiring face masks in public.
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings signed an executive order which went into effect on Saturday and does not have an expiration date.
Conservative radio host Carl Jackson is the main plaintiff and he said that both he and his business are being harmed by the face mask requirements.
“What they are trying to do is use this COVID 19 to further infringe on our rights and I’m just tired of it. I’m not going to have it anymore,” Jackson said.
Sabatini attacked the emergency ordinance on numerous legal fronts.
“It might sound like a benign and good idea for some, but anybody who is acquainted with the Florida Constitution and the United States Constitution knows that this order violates four or five parts of the Florida Constitution,” he said.
Sabatini said the order violates religious liberties since masks are now required in church. He also cited the Equal Protection Clause since government workers are exempt. “Tell me how that makes sense?” he asked.
“The reason we have filed that lawsuit is because we have a loud and unapologetic message that we have to send to the elected officials of Orange County,” Sabatini added.
Sabatini insisted the order was a large power grab.
“What have the career government politicians, who have never taken a pay cut, never gone on unemployment, what have they done once we flattened the curve?” he asked. “They’ve come with new demands. How else can we control your life? How else can we modify your behavior? How else can we look important and look like we are in charge?”
Supporters of the legal challenge claim one of the reasons the emergency order is illegal is because it includes many terms that are not defined or poorly defined with Sabatini pointing to “living” and “public” as examples. Still, he said understands that his side could have problems since governments are given broad powers during a declared state of emergency.
“State of emergency gives broad powers, but those powers…exceed the Constitution of the United States,” Sabatini said. “This order is not even in compliance with its own emergency ordinance within the code of Orange County.”
Jackson came out swinging at Demings.
“He doesn’t have to worry about losing a paycheck…but the rest of us do,” Jackson told Florida Daily, adding that he is disappointed it has come to this. “The fact that they are using an illness to gain more power for themselves while we sit in fear is ridiculous.”
John Stemberger, an attorney who has spent decades crusading for religious freedoms, is helping the legal challenge. He took aim at the order.
“It’s just poorly done. It’s draconian. It’s confusing. It’s contradictory,” Stemberger said.
While the county is saying how much it will enforce the ordinance, penalties could include $500 fines and up to 60 days in jail.
Stemberger offered a way out of the lawsuit for the county.
“I’ll recommend that my client drop this suit if just one word is changed in the order,” he said. “All the mayor has to do is change the word ‘required’ to ‘recommend’.”
As of Monday, Demings said he had not seen the lawsuit but insisted the county will not comment about ongoing litigation. Jackson is seeking a temporary injunction to stop enforcement of the order and then for a judge to rule it unconstitutional.
Reach Mike Synan at firstname.lastname@example.org.