A grounded frequent flyer is continuing his legal fight to strike down the face mask mandate. On Monday, Lucas Wall, 44, of Washington, D.C., filed a legal brief in the US District Court against the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority. Mr Wall argues the mask mandate enforced at Orlando International Airport is illegal and unconstitutional.
Supreme Court application dismissed earlier in July
Earlier this month, Simple Flying reported on the Supreme Court dismissing an application by Mr Wall to void face mask-wearing rules on public transport, including airlines. Lucas Wall states he suffers from Generalized Anxiety Disorder. He says he can’t cover his face because it instigates a feeling of a panic attack, including hyperventilating and other breathing problems.
In the Supreme Court application, Mr Wall flagged previous religion-based rulings. He argued constitutional rights, including the freedom to travel, to due process, and states’ rights under the 10th Amendment, can’t be suspended by the government due to COVID-19.
Mr Wall, who is fully vaccinated, wanted to travel to Germany shortly after that application. But the Supreme Court did not buy the argument and Lucas Wall remains in the United States. However, the Supreme Court’s decision was not the end of the road.
Lucas Wall takes his fight to the US District Court in Florida
Now in the US District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Mr Wall’s Monday filing centers on an incident at Orlando International Airport (MCO) on June 2. Wanting to catch a Southwest flight to Fort Lauderdale, Mr Wall submitted a medical exemption form well before traveling. But a Greater Orlando Aviation Authority (GOAA) employee at the airport inquired about Lucas Wall’s medical conditions. Mr Wall says that violates privacy clauses.
“No provision of the Florida Constitution permits a government employee to probe a person’s medical history to enforce an unlawful federal order such as the Federal Transportation Mask Mandate,” says Mr Wall.
“Not only have I already been injured by GOAA, but if I were to set foot in MCO tomorrow, I would again encounter a strong likelihood a state employee would invade my privacy by asking if I have a medical condition that prevents me from wearing a face mask.”
Airlines make it impossible to get a mask exemption says Mr Wall
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order issued in January requires the wearing of masks by people on public transportation, including airlines, and/ or on the premises of transportation hubs, including airports.
Listing disability exemptions, the CDC order says a person with a disability who cannot wear a mask because it would cause the person to be unable to breathe or have respiratory distress if a mask were worn over the mouth and nose, might be exempt from CDC’s requirement to wear a mask based on factors specific to the person.
Mr Wall says despite submitting his exemption form to Southwest Airlines in advance, he did not get a response from them. Referring to his arrival at Orlando Airport, he he told Ohio-based radio station WWGH,
“It started a whole lengthy brouhaha, with the TSA agent asking me to set aside and calling four or five of his managers and supervisors, a representative from Orlando Airport, and maybe four or five representatives from Southwest Airlines to all huddle for an hour or so and finally tell me that as my flight was starting to board that I would not be allowed to fly.
”My lawsuit seeking to strike down the mask mandate is for all persons, vaccinated or not.”
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Two lawsuits targeting the mask mandate
Mr. Wall is also suing the CDC, the TSA, President Biden, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Transport, Homeland Security, the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority, and several airlines. He is particularly critical of the airlines, saying the process among airlines to get a mask exemption is virtually impossible.
“There are two different lawsuits,” he explains. “The first one is against eight government agencies – six federal and two local. The second lawsuit is against seven airlines, Southwest and six others that I had tickets purchased to fly on this summer and I’ve been denied all of those flights because the airline’s process for considering mask exemptions violates numerous provisions of the Air Carrier’s Access Act.”
In June, the Florida Court of Appeal ruled June 11 that any governmental mask mandate violates a person’s constitutional right to privacy.
“We have a huge problem in this country right now since this federal transportation mask mandate took effect … instructing the CDC, the TSA, and other federal agencies to put into place this illegal and unconstitutional mask mandate to cover all forms of transportation in the United States,” Mr Wall says.
Mask mandate set to expire in September
The current mask mandate is set to expire on September 13. With the vaccination rollout continuing around the United States, there are some suggestions it may not be extended. Trying to stay relatively neutral on the issue during a recent investor’s call, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said;
“I’m not aware of any effort underway to extend the mask mandate. And as of today, we’re not advocating an extension.”
Earlier this month, United’s Scott Kirby told CBS that he thought the mask mandate may be drawing to a close.
“My guess is it will expire on September 13, but we’ll wait and see for sure.”
Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian is less sure. “If the variants are continuing, I think people are going to be a little more careful about lifting the masks,” he said just one week ago. “I think there are as many pros to taking the mask requirement off as there are to keeping it on at the present time.”
Lucas Wall believes recent rulings by some appellate courts suggest they take a dim view of CDC’s COVID-19 orders that are not authorized by Congress and violate the Constitution, federal laws, and regulations. If the mask mandate is not extended, the situation may resolve itself in September. But if an extension happens, Mr. Wall’s legal quest looks set to continue.