Illinois GOP Sues Pritzker Over Limiting Political Gatherings

ILLINOIS — The Illinois Republican Party is suing Gov. J.B. Pritzker over his consecutive executive orders limiting gatherings to 10 or fewer, saying it violates constitutional rights. They’re asking a federal court to take immediate action.

Limits on gatherings to 10 or fewer have been in place in Illinois since March 20 in a move Pritzker said was meant to curb the spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus. Pritzker’s orders effectively cancelled all planned gatherings, or led to modified meetings like virtual conferences.

In a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Monday, the Illinois Republican Party, the Schaumburg Township Republican Organization and the Northwest Side GOP argued their rights have been infringed upon by the governor’s unilateral gathering limits while he took part in political protests alongside scores of people.

“Last week, the governor’s double standard was on full display as he defended, joined and endorsed large gatherings that violate his very own Executive Orders,” Illinois GOP chairman Tim Schneider said. “It’s clear the governor keeps one set of rules for the people in politically advantageous photo ops and another for the rest of Illinois.”

The governor’s office didn’t immediately respond to the lawsuit.

In response to the GOP saying the governor was being hypocritical in telling people not to gather in groups while going out to protests, Pritzker defended his attendance to recent rallies Thursday on WMAY radio in Springfield, saying the issue was important.

“This is all the Republican Party has to say to complain that I was standing up and expressing myself with people who were maybe standing too close to me,” Pritzker said before the lawsuit was filed. “I think they’re missing the point here.”

Pritzker appeared at several marches and demonstrations last weekend with others upset over police brutality in the Chicago area earlier this month.

The GOP’s lawsuit said political party gatherings are essential and time sensitive.

“Political parties are for political expression what churches are for religious expression: the corporate manifestation of speech and interaction within a community of shared belief,” the GOP lawsuit against the governor says. “Political parties’ events and rallies are also like protest rallies and marches. And like churches and marches, political parties operate in a world where time matters; the 2020 election is only months away.”

The lawsuit seeks to declare that treating political party gatherings differently than religious gatherings violates the First Amendment’s free speech clause and 14th Amendment equal protection rights. They seek to enjoin the governor from enforcing his Executive Order 2020-38 against political parties.

The Illinois Republican Party this past weekend held their statewide convention virtually, instead of in person as they do every four years.

The Democratic Party of Illinois held their convention virtually June 6, but they have not held a presidential year statewide convention in years. They do hold a county chairman’s breakfast every year before the Illinois State Fair, but the fair this year has been canceled.

“Some states have county-level delegate selection and then a state convention. In Illinois, we have the primary and then the state convention/meeting to select the statewide delegates, standing committee members and delegation chair,” said Eileen Boyce, a spokesperson for the DPI.

The Center Square – Greg Bishop

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