Judge rules Texas governor can't enforce mask mandate ban

A Dallas County judge has ruled against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) move to ban mask mandates in the state, contending that such a policy violates the county's ability to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Judge Tonya Parker sided with Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins on Wednesday, issuing a temporary injunction against Abbott’s ban on mask mandates, The Dallas Morning News reported.

The move will allow Jenkins’s mask order, in addition to similar policies in other local school districts, to remain in place for the time being.

ADVERTISEMENT

Jenkins will now have the ability to issue penalties to individuals who do not comply with the county’s policy, which requires that masks are worn in businesses, schools and county-owned buildings, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Parker wrote in the ruling that Jenkins proved that Dallas County residents “will suffer probable imminent and irreparable injury through County Judge Jenkins being precluded from exercising his authority” to mandate masks in public, ABC 8 WFAA reported.

The controversy in Dallas began when Commissioner J.J. Koch filed a lawsuit against Jenkins earlier this month after being removed from a courtroom for refusing to wear a mask.

Jenkins responded by filing a lawsuit against Abbott over an executive order he signed that banned mask mandates.

The temporary injunction, however, will likely be appealed to the Fifth Court of Appeals in Dallas and then to the Texas Supreme Court, before a final ruling is made, The Dallas Morning News noted.

Abbott’s office said in a statement to The Hill that it believed in the state attorney general’s ability to defend the executive order.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The Office of the Attorney General has successfully defended the Governor’s executive orders in the past, and we are confident they will do so again,” Abbott’s press secretary Renae Eze said.

Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) have been steadfast in their opposition to the mask mandates, contending that the decision to wear a face covering is one of personal responsibility, according to the Dallas Morning News. They have, however, endorsed wearing masks to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Public health experts, however, reportedly argued at a hearing regarding the temporary injunction on Tuesday that there is a discrepancy between personal health choices and public health decisions. They equated the situation to bans on smoking to limit secondhand smoke, where the needs of the community should exceed the personal decision to smoke.

Abbott made headlines last week when he tested positive for a COVID-19 breakthrough case, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines as someone who is fully vaccinated testing positive for the virus.

-- Updated 5:07 p.m.