Theaters applaud New York public vax warrant in retrial
- Denounce exemption for religious services held in same spaces Disparity violates First Amendment, complaint says
September 17 – A group of operators of small theaters and comedy clubs in Manhattan filed a lawsuit to block the enforcement of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Key to NYC” proof of vaccination order, claiming that ‘it discriminates them unfairly and arbitrarily on the basis of the content of the speech and the type of speaker.
The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan federal court by attorneys for the Pacific Legal Foundation and Long Island’s Mermigis Law Group, focuses primarily on exemptions from the ordinance for religious services at any location, including small theaters, which are frequently rented out for this purpose. – and for performances organized in community centers and schools.
“Religious speech is treated more favorably than live theater or comedy,” which are also constitutionally protected speeches, Daniel Ortner of the Pacific Legal Foundation said in an email on Friday. “A theater production put on by a community center or high school drama department is treated more favorably than a production put on by one of our clients. This violates the First Amendment.
The plaintiffs also claim that the ordinance violates their constitutional right to equal protection, increases their expenses, decreases their income and creates inefficiencies. “Several staff members resigned after being yelled at, threatened or even spat on by customers unhappy with the plaintiffs’ execution” of the order, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction, $ 1 in damages and attorney fees.
De Blasio announced Key to NYC in August, in light of the resurgence of the COVID-19 virus, the emergence of delta and later variants, and evidence that “over 98% of hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 infection (between January 1) and June 15) affected those who were not fully vaccinated.
The ordinance requires that “covered entities” – including indoor entertainment, recreation, food and beverage and fitness establishments – allow entry only by employees and customers (if they are 12 years of age or older). plus) who can provide proof that they have received at least one dose of vaccine.
The enforcement section of the order, under which violators can be fined from $ 1,000 to $ 5,000, came into effect on September 13.
“The vaccination unlocks everything New York City has to offer to help us recover from this pandemic, and we will continue to vigorously defend the Key to NYC order,” the New City Legal Department said Friday. York in an emailed statement.
The city released the same statement on September 10, after a state court judge dismissed a Key to NYC challenge by IROAR, a consortium of Staten Island and Brooklyn restaurants.
The plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit filed Thursday are The Theater Center, which operates the Jerry Orbach Theater and the Anne L. Bernstein Theater in the same location; The Players’ Theater; the Theater of the Temple of the Actors; the Soho gambling house; and the Broadway Comedy Club.
The Temple of the Actors “also functions as a non-denominational Jewish synagogue,” and a church group rents the Orbach Theater for Sunday morning services, according to the complaint.
During Sunday morning services, “proof of vaccination is not required, there is congregational chanting and masks are not strictly required,” Ortner said on Friday; but “during a morning a few hours later, the theater would be required to refuse anyone who cannot prove that they are vaccinated, even if there is no singing and masks are strictly required for all customers”.
The case is The Clementine Co. d / b / a The Theater Center et al. v. Bill de Blasio, in his official capacity as Mayor of New York City, United States District Court for the Southern District of New York No. 21-7779.
For the Theater Center et al. : James Mermigis of Mermigis Law Group; Daniel Ortner and Glenn Roper of the Pacific Legal Foundation
Pour de Blasio: Not available immediately