Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) filed a lawsuit earlier this year challenging President Joe Biden’s executive order mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for all federal employees, as well as the Defense Department’s vaccine mandate for all service members as applied to his state’s contingent of the National Guard.
But a federal district court judge just rejected the governor’s lawsuit, The Washington Post reports, and denied the governor’s request for a preliminary injunction to block the mandates from being enforced.
Injunction request denied
Gov. Stitt, who stands opposed to making vaccinations mandatory, essentially argued that because National Guard units fall under the jurisdiction of their respective state governors — except for when specifically activated for federal service — the federal vaccine mandate is not applicable to Oklahoma’s Air and Army Guard units.
U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot disagreed, however, and ruled against the governor in a 29-page opinion that clearly sided with the federal government and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Primarily, Judge Friot determined that regardless of whether a particular National Guard unit is activated for federal service, the units must at all times be prepared for such an eventuality, which necessitates abiding by all applicable federal military rules and regulations.
Furthermore, at multiple points throughout the ruling, the judge noted that all military service members — including National Guard airmen and soldiers — are already required to receive nine other different vaccinations.
In the end, after denying the injunction requested by Gov. Stitt, Judge Friot nonetheless requested that federal officials provide an extended grace period for all unvaccinated members of the Oklahoma Guard units to comply with the mandate, reasoning that those individuals shouldn’t face disciplinary measures because they “did not have the benefit of well-informed leadership at the highest level of the Oklahoma Guard.”
Preparing the troops
The Post noted that the commander of the Oklahoma National Guard, Brig. Gen. Thomas Mancino, had already warned those under his command of the possible “reality” they may face if the state’s lawsuit didn’t pan out.
In a message issued Dec. 9, Mancino noted that the “safe harbor” against vaccination as sought by the governor was limited.
“Anyone exercising their personal responsibility and deciding not to take the vaccine, must realize that the potential for career-ending federal action, barring a favorable court ruling, legislative intervention, or a change in policy is present,” he said.
According to the Post, five other Republican-led states — Alaska, Iowa, Mississippi, Nebraska, and Wyoming — have sent a joint letter to Sec. Austin raising similar arguments.
Of course, Austin can now simply point to this district court ruling as a rebuttal.