Judge rules on US military vax mandate lawsuit
A US federal judge has ruled against the Oklahoma government and a group of soldiers in a lawsuit challenging the military’s vaccination requirements, denying a requested pause on the policy for National Guard troops in the state.
US District Judge Stephen Friot said he would not grant a temporary injunction against the mandate in a decision on Tuesday, arguing that the state’s case was “without merit.”
“The vaccine mandate to which the governor objects is … intended to protect service members from the virus, which has, in less than two years, killed more Americans than have been killed in action in all of the wars the United States has ever fought,” the judge said.
Originally filed on December 2 on behalf of Governor Kevin Stitt, state Attorney General John O’Connor and 16 anonymous National Guard soldiers, the lawsuit followed previous wrangling over the same mandate. It was launched after the Oklahoma Guard’s 45th Infantry Brigade Commander, Brigadier General Thomas Mancino, told his troops they would not be penalized for being unvaccinated. Governor Stitt later sought an exemption from the Pentagon, but this was ultimately refused, and he took the issue to the courts soon after.
In its suit, the state government argued that the mandate was unconstitutional and had been imposed “without any semblance of a congressional authorization.” It insisted that President Joe Biden should have obtained consent from lawmakers before moving ahead on “a matter of such vast political and economic significance.” The lawsuit also accused the White House of “trying to disarm the State of Oklahoma from protecting itself, its territory, and its citizens” by threatening to discharge unvaccinated troops who hadn’t received a formal exemption.
However, Judge Friot also noted that the state’s original complaint focused “entirely” on the wrong federal order – one that applied only to civilian government contractors. An amended suit addressing the correct statutes was filed on Monday. Unimpressed by the apparent mix-up, the judge shot down the state’s newly filed complaint regardless, arguing that its lawsuit demonstrated a “fundamental” misunderstanding of the National Guard and the authorities that govern it.