On Thursday, the state of Oklahoma filed a lawsuit to exempt members of the state’s National Guard from the nationwide coronavirus vaccine mandate, The Hill reports.
The suit, filed in federal court by Governor Kevin Stitt (R-Okla.) and Attorney General John O’Connor (R-Okla.), names Joe Biden and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin as defendants. The suit requests that the courts declare the national vaccine mandate for all members of the armed services to be unconstitutional, and thus enjoin the federal government from enforcing it on the Oklahoma National Guard; the suit also seeks to prevent the federal government from imposing its penalty for refusal to comply, which would include withholding federal funds from the state’s National Guard.
“This mandate ensures that many Oklahoma National Guard members will simply quit instead of getting a vaccine,” the suit reads in part, “a situation that will irreparably harm Oklahomans’ safety and security.”
Austin, a former Raytheon executive, ordered the entirety of the military to get vaccinated back in August. Among the various deadlines for individual branches was December 2nd, the final date by which the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve members had to get vaccinated. June 30th was the Army’s deadline for reservists and guard members.
Governor Stitt had previously asked Austin in early November to allow an exemption for the Oklahoma National Guard, and appointed a new commander of the National Guard, Brig. Gen. Thomas Mancino, who said in a memo shortly after his appointment that he would not force any member of the guard to get vaccinated.
On Tuesday, Austin issued his own memo reiterating that he wanted all National Guard and Reserve personnel to get vaccinated. He threatened to have all unvaccinated members marked as “absent without cause” from any drills and training, which would see them lose pay for those days.
Governor Stitt called it “unconscionable” that Biden and his administration is “choosing to play politics with military paychecks, especially amid the highest inflation rate in 30 years and so close to the holiday season.”
“Threatening the pay of National Guard members is manifestly unlawful and unfair, as unvaccinated active-duty personnel do not have their pay withheld,” Stitt said in a statement. “I will continue fighting to protect Oklahoma against this alarming pattern of unconstitutional federal overreach coming from the Biden administration.”