Venue sues over Virginia's crowd limit for outdoor weddings

Posted at 9:25 AM, Mar 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-11 09:25:27-05

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) - An estate in western Virginia that holds outdoor weddings has filed a lawsuit over Gov. Ralph Northam's COVID-19-related restrictions.

The Roanoke Times reported Wednesday that the suit was filed by Belle Garden Estate in Franklin County.

The venue claims that it will lose business in the upcoming spring wedding season because of limits on the number of people who can gather together for a wedding.

A hearing has been scheduled for March 24 in a federal court in Roanoke. A judge will be asked to issue a preliminary injunction that would invalidate the prohibition on outdoor gatherings of more than 25 people at events such as weddings.

“Anxious brides trying to have a wedding planned months in advance are being told they cannot have their wedding,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit claims that Northam’s order violates the First Amendment right of free assembly and the 14th Amendment right of equal protection.

Northam spokeswoman Alena Yarmosky declined to comment on pending litigation.

In general, “Governor Northam has taken a measured and data-driven approach throughout this public health crisis, and that’s what he’ll continue to do,” she told the newspaper.

University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias said most people who have filed similar lawsuits have lost in court.

He said that's "mainly because courts have found that the public health emergency created by the pandemic is more important” than legal protections cited in the lawsuits.