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Libertarian Group Sues Ohio Again On Behalf Of Closed Gyms

A basketball hoop blocked off at Kobacker Park in Columbus.
David Holm
A basketball hoop blocked off at Kobacker Park in Columbus.

A group of 35 independent gyms and fitness centers is suing the state, saying they could reopen for business safely but they’re not being allowed to.

In a May 11 filing with the Lake County Court of Common Please, attorney Maurice Thompson argued that gyms "pose a significantly lower risk of harmful infections than nearly any alternative operation."

He said the gyms maintain private memberships, control who can come in and often operate by appointment. He added that, while "nearly 100% of deaths" from COVID-19 are people over 60, the same percentage of his clients' customers are under that age.

Thompson argued these gyms should never have been closed because they could have been operating safely all along.

"In prohibiting healthy behavior through exercise at Ohio gyms, Defendants continue to obstruct rather than advance Ohioans’ health, all the while having continuously overinflated the risk of harm to the general public," the complaint reads.

The lawsuit names Ohio Department of Health director Amy Acton and the Lake County General Health District as defendants.

Thompson’s libertarian 1851 Center for Constitutional Law filed an earlier suit for a Columbus bridal shop claiming it was unfairly shut down as a non-essential business. Thompson lost that case, but says this one is even stronger because the original stay-at-home order has changed.

“The new Stay Safe Ohio order, in basically opening 80% of the economy and leaving gyms out, is much more arbitrary and much more unequal," Thompson says.

Asked about the lawsuit, Gov. Mike DeWine said he gets "sued a lot." On Thursday, the governor announced that gyms and fitness centers would be able to reopen May 26, with new guidelines developed by a state working group.