An Oklahoma federal judge on Dec. 28 denied Governor Kevin Stitt’s request to block the Defense Department’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
In a 29-page ruling, Judge Stephen Friot of the Western District of Oklahoma ruled that Oklahoma National Guard members must get the COVID-19 vaccine, rejecting Stitt’s argument that the Defense Department overstepped its authority to issue the mandate.
“The military vaccination mandate is valid and enforceable as applied to the Guard and that, consequently, the Governor and his co-plaintiffs have not demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits,” Friot wrote in the ruling.
Friot pointed out that the National Guard has historically been included in military vaccine mandates.
“There is nothing ‘transformative’ about a force protection measure first conceived and enforced by General George Washington when he required members of the Continental Army to be inoculated against smallpox,” Friot wrote.
“Inclusion of the Guard in the military vaccine mandate is not an expansion of anything. The Guard has been included in military vaccination mandates for a long time,” Friot further wrote.
The office of Attorney General John O’Connor, who filed the motion to block the mandate with Stitt, said in an emailed statement that they were “disappointed” with the ruling, The Hill reported.
“We expect the Biden administration to review in good faith all exemptions and religious accommodations requested by our fellow Oklahomans,” the statement said, adding that the Office is analyzing the state’s response to the ruling.
Friot also urged the Defense Department to give the Oklahoma National Guard members a “grace period — to facilitate prompt compliance with the vaccination mandate — before directly or indirectly taking action which would end the military careers of any Oklahoma Guard members.”
The Oklahoma National Guard have until June 30 to comply to the mandate.
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