OLYMPIA — Four Republican legislators sued Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday over his stay-at-home proclamation, a court challenge the governor called “biologically ignorant and humanly heartless.”
The suit was the second filed in U.S. District Court alleging that Inslee has exceeded his authority by shutting down businesses and banning social gatherings.
Last week, political activist Tim Eyman, Franklin County Commissioner Clint Didier and others accused Inslee of “unacceptable tyranny,” claiming the governor has taken away constitutional liberties.
The Republican legislators argue that what began as a legitimate response to concerns that hospitals would be overwhelmed has morphed into an unconstitutional power grab by Inslee.
The elderly remain at risk, but for the general population the emergency has been contained, according to the suit.
“We’re not arguing to get rid of social distancing and changes at restaurants,” said Yakima Rep. Chris Corry, one of the lawmakers suing Inslee. “We’re saying let’s let our businesses come to the table and see how they can open up safely, so we can get money back in people’s pockets, get our the economy going.
“We should trust them to protect not only they’re workers, but their customers,” Corry said.
In answering a question about the lawsuit, Inslee stressed COVID-19’s cumulative death toll in Washington, which was 862 as of Tuesday, according to the state Department of Health.
“I think it would be a horrific surprise to the over 800 families that have lost a loved one already to this pandemic to think this is not a crisis. I believe that position is biologically ignorant and humanly heartless,” the governor said.
Inslee said the Republicans’ position was “not compliant with science” and that a “vast majority” of residents are cooperating with the stay-at-home order.
“You have some politicians who have taken positions contrary to that. I vigorously disagree with them. I think they are not only short-sighted, but dangerous,” he said.
Four other people joined the Republican lawmakers as plaintiffs in the suit. Each one described financial and personal hardships caused by the governor’s ban on human interactions.
A 70-year-old woman stated that she has multiple sclerosis and has lost strength because she has been unable to exercise in a pool at a fitness center closed by Inslee’s proclamation.
The other lawmakers joining the suit are Reps. Drew MacEwen of Mason County, Andrew Barkis of Thurston County and Brandon Vick of Clark County.
Eyman and Didier, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party, were joined by a handful of other plaintiffs. The lawsuit said it also was filed on behalf of “other nonessential Washingtonians similarly situated.”