Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp Sues Atlanta over Mask Requirement

In this image provided by the Georgia Port Authority, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during the Georgia Ports Authority's Savannah State of the Port event, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019, in Savannah, Ga. The GPA plans to double capacity at Garden City Terminal to 11 million twenty-foot equivalent container units per …
Stephen Morton/Georgia Port Authority via AP

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) filed a lawsuit Thursday against Atlanta after the city issued a mandate for residents to wear a mask in public.

The lawsuit, filed by Kemp and Georgia Attorney General Christopher Carr, accuses Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) of operating outside her authority by requiring people to wear masks. Fifteen local governments across the state issued similar orders regarding face coverings. On Wednesday, Kemp voided and banned those governments from ordering individuals to wear masks in public.

However, a Kemp spokesperson, Candice Broce, maintains that the governor still encourages people to wear face coverings.

“Previous executive orders – and now this order – state no local action can be more or less restrictive than ours. We have explained that local mask mandates are unenforceable. The Governor continues to strongly encourage Georgians to wear masks in public,” she tweeted.

Kemp’s order was met with defiance Thursday by Bottoms and some other mayors, who said they would continue enforcing the order and were prepared to go to court. The lawsuit will force that showdown, resolving what had been an ambiguous situation with Kemp denying local governments could order masks, but local governments arguing it was within their power.

Bottoms last week issued what initially appeared to be orders that people had to return to sheltering at home and forcing restaurants to return to only offering takeout and delivery. Kemp quickly swatted that down in public statements, and Bottoms on Thursday described them as guidelines. But Kemp’s lawsuit says the court should set Bottoms straight on those orders as well.

Georgia has 127,834 confirmed virus cases and 3,091 related-deaths.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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