On Tuesday, embattled Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who was accused and later settled with $62,500 in campaign funds for sexual assault, was reported to be trying to have the court throw out a lawsuit brought by the nonprofit fraternal organizations the New Mexico Elks Association, the New Mexico Aerie of the Brotherhood of Eagles, and the New Mexico Loyal Order of the Moose over lockdown orders that have shuttered the organizations’ operations.
The organizations run multiple clubs and bars across the state and they are directly impacted by the Governor’s strict lockdown policies which have shuttered them for months.
The groups argued in their lawsuit that “the state has acted arbitrarily and capriciously by requiring their lodges to remain closed while establishments offering similar services — such golf courses and country clubs, gyms and restaurants — have been allowed to reopen under capacity limits and guidance for public health.”
In the complaint, they write that they “can implement the same safety precautions, policies and procedures that similar organizations were able to implement in order to resume organizational operations.”
However, Lujan Grisham’s attorneys had a different way of spinning the story, writing, “Plaintiffs’ members are allowed to assemble and fundraise at various capacities depending on the county’s status,” The attorneys added, “They are only prohibited from offering alcohol service in Yellow and Red counties.”
“Plaintiffs’ members are allowed to assemble and fundraise at various capacities depending on the county’s status,” the state’s filing argues. “They are only prohibited from offering alcohol service in Yellow and Red counties.”
“The governor argued that the state’s public health orders, which have been upheld in unrelated cases, do not discriminate against fraternal organizations versus other businesses, eliminating their equal protection claim,” according to the Las Cruces Sun-News.
“Regarding why bars are treated differently than where other alcohol is served, the Governor’s attorneys wrote, “…people cannot simultaneously drink and wear a mask. Further, a bar presents a greater risk of COVID-19 transmission than other businesses like restaurants because it is an enclosed space where people socialize without masks due to consuming alcohol for an extended period of time, whereas restaurant patrons typically conduct the limited activity of eating a meal.”
“Further, they stressed that the public health orders do not infringe upon any fundamental rights, due process rights or freedom of association; that the governor and state Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins are both named as defendants in their individual but not their official capacities; and that even if there were a valid claim, Collins and Lujan Grisham would be protected from liability by qualified immunity, a legal doctrine shielding government officials unless their conduct violates ‘clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known,’” the report reads.