The organization ReOpen San Diego this week sued the city of San Diego over the city’s mandate that all city employees, elected officials, board and commission members and volunteers must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The lawsuit, filed Feb. 15 in a federal court, claims the vaccination mandate adopted by the city council on Nov. 29 by a vote of 8-1 is unconstitutional and discriminatory.
The non-profit organization had threatened to sue in December when it sent the city a letter demanding the revocation of the mandate, arguing that the demand illegally limits the pool of potential public officials, including those who would run for public office. The city did not respond to the request, according to the lawsuit.
“This is the only resort we have, as a people, to be able to protect our meaningful participation in government,” Amy Reichert, co-founder of ReOpen San Diego, said in an interview.
“I absolutely believe in keeping people safe when it makes sense,” she added. “This does not make sense and it is discriminatory on its face.”
The city’s law firm issued a statement saying its staff would review the trial and respond through the courts.
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The trial asks the court to stop the city from enforcing the mandate until the trial is awaited, and to declare the claim illegal and award the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees and costs.
“The executive order and the plan work together to exclude an entire category of individuals from meaningful participation in the city council – whether it is by serving as an elected official, board member, volunteer or even (eventually) attending a city meeting or engaging in city business in a city building – solely because of a personal medical decision as to whether or not to be vaccinated against COVID-19 (or a person’s refusal to disclose their COVID-19 vaccine status), ”the lawsuit alleges.
“The promulgation and the plan are also manifestly illegal as they violate the U.S. Constitution and state and local laws and violate the fundamental principles of democracy,” according to the case.
Arie Spangler, a lawyer representing ReOpen San Diego in the trial, said in an email that he expects the court will be convinced that the mandate is an “attack on democracy” that interferes with citizens’ rights, including their right to participate in government and to elect representatives “from all kinds of political persuasions.”
City officials have been behind the mandate, describing it as a legal and necessary step to protect public health. City staff, officials or volunteers may request medical or religious exemptions, which will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, according to city officials.
ReOpen San Diego has organized rallies and protests against COVID-19 measures such as school closures and mask and vaccination requirements. It has clashed with county leaders and other local officials at public meetings and orchestrated hours of public commentary condemning pandemic restrictions. ◆