More than 90 plaintiffs including employees from the Washington State Patrol, the Department of Corrections, the state ferry system, firefighters, and health care workers, recently filed suit against Democrat Governor Jay Inslee's vaccine mandates for state employees.
Last month, Inslee ordered all state employees and contractors, K-12 education staffers and health care workers to get fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or be terminated and lose their benefits.
According to the lawsuit, filed Friday in Walla Walla County Superior Court, the state and local government employees contend that Inslee’s mandate oversteps his legal authority and violates their constitutional rights. The lawsuit cites emails which demonstrate that Inslee’s office crafted the religious exemption to the mandate to be "as narrow as possible."
Though employees are able to seek medical or religious exemptions, many have been told they could still be fired or reassigned even if their exemption are approved. Inslee’s mandate is stricter than those in almost every other state in the country, as well as those of the federal government, which allow weekly coronavirus testing for workers as an opt out.
One of the many side effects of sweeping mandates is their adverse effect on those Inslee tried to paint with a broad brush.
One example is William and Sherra Cleary. The couple discovered during the second trimester of Sherra’s pregnancy that their second child had no heart beat. William, a local firefighter, told The Ari Hoffman Show on 570 KVI in an exclusive interview that "It was a tragedy and shook us as a family to the core. As the shock faded, it led to a profound sadness that was difficult to pull out of."
The couple decided to wait roughly a year before trying again. According to William "When we finally found out that we would be having another child, we were overjoyed for many reasons. First, the thought of adding to the family and giving our daughter a sibling was the sole focus and source of excitement and happiness. It was only a bit later that I realized that this new pregnancy was essential in helping us heal and move forward after the previous loss."
Yet the joy was short lived. After a regularly scheduled ultrasound, Sherra’s obstetrician told the couple that they found a growth on their daughter’s heart and would be referred to a high-risk specialist. During the consult with the high-risk obstetrician, they were told that their child had an extremely rare genetic disorder which manifests itself in tumors in and around the heart.
Neither of the parents have this condition and were told that it is possible that their daughter has been prey to a one-off scenario where some unknown external factor is responsible for a gene variation causing this condition which affects less than .1 percent of children.
Sherra is an x-ray technologist at a local hospital and is required by Inslee’s mandate to be vaccinated by October 18th, receive an exemption or face termination. The Clearys assumed that a medical exemption was appropriate since they have a fetus with a clinically diagnosed heart condition. According to the CDC, "Since April 2021, increased cases of myocarditis and pericarditis have been reported in the United States after mRNA COVID-19 vaccination (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna), particularly in adolescents and young adults. There has not been a similar reporting pattern observed after receipt of the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine (Johnson & Johnson)."
William said, "Why would we want to add any more risk, no matter how small, to this pregnancy?" According to William, they asked for and were denied a medical exemption on three different occasions.
Inslee said when announcing the mandate, regarding state employees, "We want to keep you, you're doing good work. The public depends on you. Don't jeopardize a career without talking to your physician about this."
That’s exactly what the Clearys did and were denied. William said that, "Seattle Children’s Hospital denied us twice during physician consult after our scheduled fetal echocardiograms. Swedish Medical Center denied us once during physician consult after a scheduled anatomy scan."
"In a way, it feels as if we have been struck by lightning twice. The added stress from the mandate and the denial of exemption cannot be good for my wife or our unborn daughter. In a perfect world, we survive the 18th, we give birth to a baby girl in early December, and we pick up the pieces from there."
On Tuesday, attorney for the plaintiffs Nathan Arnold appeared with William on the Ingraham Angle on Fox News. Host Laura Ingraham asked William, "...you and your wife serve others," William as a Seattle firefighter and Sherra as a medical profession, "that's part of your job. And how do you feel like you're being served now?"
William responded, "Frankly we're not. You know, we just came through a pandemic of a year and a half plus and I think the overall feeling for all of us that are in a similar situation is really, we just put everything on the line for everyone. And now this is being done to us. How is this fair or just?"
Arnold added that Inslee’s mandate makes no exemption for "state employees with natural immunity by virtue of prior infection," or those that have "the ability to perform their duties from home."
He added that "We do not want this to be a political lawsuit, except for the extent that separation of powers and civil liberties, where those intersect has been politicized when in reality, those things are critically important to everyone in the country and every other state, regardless of their political opinion."
Arnold wrote in the suit that Inslee’s open-ended emergency declaration, first issued February 29, 2020, is an unreasonable use of powers which were intended to be temporary.
A recent court ruling in New York may signal the way of things to come and hope for the Clearys and others. On Tuesday, a federal court temporarily blocked New York's prohibitions on religious exemptions from the state's vaccine mandate.
William said that as the main point of contact for the case he has seen stories even more tragic than his family’s. "We realize that we are just one story of a family experiencing difficulty. We are not unique. There are thousands of stories just like ours all throughout the state. I know because I have personally read all of their stories.
"For a week now, I have been the point person for collecting, sorting and responding to emails coming into our Lawyers office literally begging for help. Doctors, nurses, WSDOC employees, State Troopers, teachers, administrators, WSDOT workers, electricians, students and single bread winners trying to survive. It has been truly heartbreaking to read their stories, but it has steeled my resolve to fight this to the end."
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