Judge: Gov. Andy Beshear’s COVID-19 travel ban ‘does not pass constitutional muster’

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Gov. Andy Beshear’s prohibition on certain types of interstate travel to help protect Kentuckians against the coronavirus was deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge Monday.

Beshear, a Democrat, said the executive order limiting travel was necessary because some neighboring states had not taken the same types of aggressive actions to close businesses and prevent the spread of the contagion.

The March 30 executive order banned out-of-state travel except for work, getting groceries, caring for a loved one, health care or when required by a court order.

But in a 15-page ruling, U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman said the governor’s decision did “not pass constitutional muster.” He said the right to travel from one state to another is “firmly embedded” in U.S. jurisprudence.

“The restrictions infringe on the basic right of citizens to engage in interstate travel, and they carry with them criminal penalties,” Bertelsman said.

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The judge granted a preliminary injunction declaring the travel ban orders invalid and prohibiting their enforcement.

The ruling comes days after growing protests by Kentuckians who have decried many of Beshear’s restrictions for violating their rights.

Beshear had expressed confidence when asked about the lawsuit against the travel ban during a news briefing the day after it was filed.

Asked about the judge’s ruling at Monday’s news briefing, the governor initially focused on how Bertelsman upheld his executive orders against mass gatherings.

Beshear then pivoted to the travel ban portion of the ruling, saying how the judge said Kentucky’s travel ban would be constitutional if it were more similar to Ohio’s restriction.

The judge noted how minor changes may “alleviate the problems” with Beshear’s ban on travel. He mentioned how the Ohio travel regulations restrict travel into that state by a person who intends to stay in the state for at least 24 hours.

Bertelsman said that is an important distinction for individuals stopping while driving through Kentucky or changing planes at the airport who fret over being quarantined for 14 days under Beshear’s order.

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