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Group appeals judge’s refusal to strike down Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s stay-at-home order during pandemic

A reader asked: Can I visit my significant other during the stay at home order if we don’t live together? Baltimore Sun reporter Hallie Miller answers.

Several state lawmakers, religious leaders and other plaintiffs are appealing a federal judge’s refusal to strike down a stay-at-home order and other restrictions that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals opened a docket for the case on Friday. The appeals court didn’t immediately set deadlines for attorneys to file briefs or schedule a hearing for the case.

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On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Blake in Baltimore denied the plaintiffs’ request for a temporary restraining order blocking enforcement of Hogan’s lockdown orders.

On March 30, Hogan issued an executive order requiring residents to stay at home except for essential activities, such as grocery shopping or seeking medical care. The governor also closed nonessential businesses.

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The governor lifted the statewide stay-at-home order effective May 15, but many hard-hit counties elected to extend their own stay-at-home orders.

The lawsuit’s plaintiffs include Del. Dan Cox, a Frederick Republican. Cox claims he was threatened with criminal prosecution if he attended or spoke at a May 2 rally protesting Hogan’s lockdown orders.

The plaintiffs argued the governor’s prohibition on gatherings of over 10 people infringed on their First Amendment right to free exercise of religion. The judge, however, said the order still allowed for a variety of religious services, including “drive-in” services.

The judge also rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that requiring face coverings to be worn on public transportation and in retail stores violates their freedom of speech.

Hogan has made "reasonable choices" informed by data, science and expert advice, Blake said.

“Public officials cannot responsibly exercise their broad authority to protect the health of the entire community without considering the data, the science, and the advice of experienced public health professionals,” the judge wrote.

Cox, one of the attorneys who filed the lawsuit, didn’t immediately respond to a call and email seeking comment.

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