Georgia U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene sues Pelosi over mask fine

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and two other lawmakers are suing Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other House staffers over fines they received for violating rules on wearing a mask.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Washington’s U.S. District Court on behalf of Greene, Kentucky U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie and South Carolina U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman. Last week, the House Ethics Committee rejected appeals filed by all three representatives over the $500 fines they received after refusing to wear masks on the House floor as mandated by Pelosi as a precaution during the coronavirus pandemic.

During a press conference to publicize their legal action, Greene characterized the mask policy as “segregation” and “discrimination” against people who both refused to wear the face coverings but also declined to be vaccinated, according to reporter Eva McKend.

The lawsuit alleges that the mask fines imposed by Pelosi and enforced by the sergeant-at-arms and chief administrative officer violated the 27th Amendment, which says members of the House must vote to raise or decrease their salaries. Because the fines were imposed by docking the lawmakers’ pay, that amounts to an illegal reduction in their salaries, they argue.

The lawmakers’ attorneys also said the fine was unconstitutional because their decisions not to adhere to the mask policies was not the kind of “disorderly behavior” for which House members can be punished.

Georgia U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde is making similar arguments in his lawsuit over fines he faced after refusing to pass through metal detectors before entering the House floor, a procedure implemented by Pelosi after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

Greene’s suit comes as many conservatives have made the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the wearing of masks a part of the culture war, even as new variants of the virus are fueling higher hospitalization and death rates.

Greene was cited in May for refusing to wear a mask when the rules at the time mandated it for everyone on the House floor except those who had been recognized to speak. She and other conservative lawmakers at the time made a point of flaunting their breaking of the rules after receiving warnings.

Masks are currently only required for those who have not been fully vaccinated. Greene said in February that she didn’t plan to get the shots. When asked again by a reporter earlier this month, she refused to say whether she had received the shots and accused the reporter of violating her rights under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, federal legislation restricting the release of medical information.

The HIPAA laws prevents doctors and hospitals from releasing patients’ health care information without their permission, but it doesn’t preclude individuals from discussing their own health decisions, illnesses or treatment, or prohibit those types of questions.