The Justice Department has added its support to a federal lawsuit challenging Maine Gov. Janet Mills‘ banning out-of-state residents from using state campgrounds during phase one of its reopening plan.
The owners of two campgrounds and two restaurants in Maine filed a federal lawsuit against Ms. Mills, saying her reopening plan unconstitutionally violates people’s right to travel from state to state.
Ms. Mills has ordered out-of-state residents coming to Maine to quarantine for 14 days before renting space at a campground or RV park.
She has also only allowed Maine residents to use the campgrounds until June 1.
The plaintiffs say the order has hurt their businesses and is discriminatory because it treats Maine residents more favorably than nonresidents.
Siding with the plaintiffs, the Justice Department said the order infringes upon Americans’ right to travel throughout the country.
“Here, Maine likely has transgressed the Constitution’s limits by discriminating between Maine residents and out-of-state residents with respect to the ability to patronize campgrounds and RV parks within the state,” attorneys with the Department’s Civil Rights Division wrote Friday.
“I am deeply disappointed — and frankly disgusted — that the U.S. Department of Justice is making a concerted effort to undermine the health of the people of Maine — objections they never raised when the president and his own task force took steps to limit travel. It seems to me that their only actual ‘interest’ here is, at best, political or, at worst, to harm Mainers, not defend them,” she said in a statement.
The businesses — Bayley’s Camping Resort, the Little River Bar & Grille and the Seaside Square Cafe, all in Scarborough, and the Little Ossipee Campground in Waterboro — say the order has hurt their business.
Canceled reservations have cost the Little Ossipee Campground over $90,000 and Bayley’s Campground has received over 700 canceled reservations, refunded over $150,000 in reservation fees and lost over $26,000 in revenue, according to the lawsuit.
“It is not obvious why a 14-day self-quarantine in a New Hampshire home, for instance, is any less effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19 than undergoing the same isolation in a house in Maine,” the department said. “Put simply, the mere fact that a traveler has recently been outside Maine is not a good proxy for the risk that he will spread COVID-19.”
Maine Attorney General Aaron M. Frey also rebutted the Justice Department, saying the reopening plan is lawful and necessary.
“The Executive Orders and the Restarting Plan at issue in this lawsuit were carefully crafted and have been reviewed and updated in order to protect Mainers’ health during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said in a statement. “Specifically, the requirement for individuals traveling into Maine from out of state to self-quarantine for 14 days (with exemptions for essential workers) was examined by my office, which determined it was a lawful requirement consistent with Maine’s public health challenges.”
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