Franklin County wedding venue files lawsuit over COVID-19 restrictions | Business Local

In its lawsuit against Northam, Belle Garden Estate is challenging part of his executive order that applies to “parties, celebrations, or other social events,” limiting the number of people to 10 for indoor events and 25 outdoors.

But there are many exceptions. Groups of people that exceed the limit are not considered an affected gathering if they are at work, in an educational setting, or at a park or retail business. Religious services are also exempted, as long as participants follow guidelines such as social distancing and mask wearing.

Outdoor weddings were excluded, “intentionally or unintentionally,” from a group of entertainment and amusement businesses that are allowed to have crowds of up to 30{2f36692215c92488191f15c49f485bc8da437d4cca01014075d40c79880301cc} of their occupancy, or if applicable up to 1,000 people, the lawsuit states.

That means a wide variety of activities — carnivals, horse races, concerts, sporting events and even an Easter egg hunt at a Rotary Club — are given more latitude than weddings, according to the lawsuit.

Furthermore, the exception for church activities means that businesses such as Belle Garden would be required to urge clients to have religious-affiliated weddings in order to exceed the 25-person limit. “This converts Plaintiff from a secular business to a quasi-arm of religious interests,” the lawsuit states.

Northam’s order is alleged to violate the First Amendment right of free assembly and the 14th Amendment right of equal protection under the law.

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