CHICAGO (CBS) — The Illinois Republican Party is suing Gov. JB Pritzker, claiming the restrictions in place during Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan unconstitutionally discriminate against political parties. The lawsuit seeks an exemption from the state’s 10-person limit on public gatherings.
In a federal lawsuit filed Monday night, the Illinois GOP and other local Republican groups note the governor’s executive orders allowed religious gatherings of more than 10 people, but did not provide similar allowances for political parties.
The lawsuit also noted Pritzker has joined at least one large protest march in south suburban Matteson, as part of the widespread outrage over the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.
“Unlike churches, political parties are barred from gathering in groups greater than 10 under the Governor’s Executive Order,” the lawsuit stated. “And unlike protestors against police brutality, they have not been given an exemption based on his sympathy, recognition, and participation. This disparate treatment of similar expressive activities violates both the First and 14th Amendments.”
The Illinois Republican Party said it engages in many gatherings throughout the year that are most effective when held in-person, “but it has a particular time-pressure to undertake these sessions in the next five months leading up to the 2020 general election.”
The Illinois GOP criticized Pritzker for not enforcing the limit on public gatherings when protesters assemble in the hundreds and even thousands, while forcing the party to hold its 2020 convention virtually.
“Governor Pritzker is ruling Illinois like an unaccountable king where only he gets to decide which violations of his executive order have his blessing. The Illinois Republican Party will not sit idly by while the Governor of Illinois applies one rule for himself and his political allies and another rule for everyone else,” Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider said in a statement. “We agree that peaceful protesters have just cause to exercise their first amendment rights, but they aren’t the only ones. The days of Governor Pritzker picking winners and losers is coming to an end. The hypocrisy has to end. The violation of our First Amendment rights has to end.”
The lawsuit seeks to prohibit Pritzker from enforcing the 10-person public gathering limits against political parties.
“When the state grants access to one set of speakers, it must give equal access and treatment to all speakers of a similar character,” the lawsuit states. “To do otherwise is to discriminate in favor of certain speakers and against other similar speakers based only on the content of their speech, in this case religious speech versus political speech, or protest speech versus Republican speech, and this the First Amendment does not allow without a compelling government interest and narrow tailoring.”
The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.