Loudoun County wedding venue Zion Springs has filed a lawsuit challenging the commonwealth's restrictions on businesses and places of worship during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Zion Springs filed separate lawsuits in Virginia’s supreme and federal district courts this week, claiming the orders made by Gov. Ralph Northam (D) were “‘unconstitutional” and “caused economic hardship." The suit asks the courts to grant all Virginia businesses and places of worship rights to operate.
Dr. M. Norman Oliver, state health commissioner for the Virginia Health Department, and Northam are named as defendants in the case.
“Governor Northam is using powers that are supposed to be for an emergency, but instead he’s basically passing long-lasting and semi-permanent laws that are preventing Zion Springs from operating their business,” said state Sen. Chap Petersen, attorney for co-plaintiff Jon Tigges, owner of Zion Springs.
Petersen, a Democrat state senator from Fairfax, is also representing Linda Park, owner of a Japanese-style restaurant in Fredericksburg, in the suit.
The plaintiffs are claiming that the governor is not using new COVID-19 data showing the virus is “significantly less deadly than originally forecasted." One of the suits challenges the governor's right to issue the orders by bypassing the General Assembly, according to media reports.
Should the courts rule in favor of the plaintiffs, they said “this judicial check will benefit all churches, small businesses, and individuals who have had their rights taken away without due process.”
Zion Springs had raised more than $2,000 toward its Virginia Freedom Fund as of Thursday.
The wedding venue has relied on various government investment opportunities during the pandemic, including the Paycheck Protection Program, but the senator said the business has had zero revenue for the past three months and may have to cancel weddings scheduled for the remainder of the year.
State Del. Dave LaRock (R-33rd) said he supports his constituent’s lawsuit to overturn Northam’s orders.
“When Governor Northam started writing executive orders in March, he claimed emergency executive authority,” LaRock said in a prepared statement. “The executive orders Northam has issued go far beyond what the law allows, not only in time, but in scope, as over 700,000 Virginians have lost their jobs under the governor's forced shutdown and micro-regulation of Virginia's businesses. Ending these restrictions is long overdue, and I'm pleased to stand with my friend and neighbor, Jon Tigges, to liberate Virginia's businesses and citizens.”
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Mark Herring (D) told the Richmond Times-Dispatch the attorney general's office “has successfully defended Virginia’s COVID safety measures against numerous legal attacks, and we expect to do so again.”
Loudoun County on Friday is joining the rest of the commonwealth in the second phase guidelines for reopening.