Oregon Firefighters, Police Sue Governor Over Vaccination Mandate

A coalition of firefighters and police are suing Oregon Governor Kate Brown over her mandate that requires Covid-19 vaccinations for all state workers.

The lawsuit was filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court. It identifies the plaintiffs as the Oregon Fraternal Order of Police, firefighters at the Kingsley Field Air National Guard Base in Klamath County, and state troopers.

The state of Oregon and Gov. Kate Brown are listed as defendants.

According to the lawsuit, the coalition is asking a judge to declare Gov. Brown’s executive order “unenforceable,” claiming it would result in the wrongful termination of employees and violates Oregon statutes.

Gov. Brown’s order was announced in August as she reinstated an indoor mask mandate amid rising Covid-19 numbers. The order requires all executive branch state employees to be fully vaccinated on or before October 18, or six weeks after a vaccine receives full approval — not the current emergency approvals.

When questioned, Brown spokesperson Liz Merah released a statement saying the governor is responding to a public health crisis.

“Given the seriousness of the situation, employer vaccine requirements have become an important tool, and state government plays a part. It’s critical to protect state workers, workplaces, and facilities, as well as members of the public who use state services,” she said.

Constitutional complaint

The lawsuit claims that the executive order violates both the U.S. and state constitutions, citing freedom of expression and religion guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Troopers and firefighters are “being forced to choose between their rights, privileges, and liberties as citizens on the one hand and their employment, careers, and financial futures on the other,” the lawsuit reads.

People with “sincerely held” religious beliefs or specific disabilities may qualify for exemptions. However, according to the case, only one in nine troopers has filed for an exemption.

“Forcing them to decide between their livelihoods and vindicating their statutory and constitutional rights is unconscionable and wrong.”

The lawsuit also references a tweet from Brown in June 2020, when she wrote, “To lead thriving lives, Oregonians must have the ability to control their bodies and make informed decisions about our health.” She was commenting on a U.S. Supreme Court decision on abortion rights.

Brown declined several news agency requests for a comment on the lawsuit.