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Judge Denies Request To Block Northam's COVID Restrictions for Weddings

Senator Chap Peterson outside the federal courthouse in Richmond.
Sen. Chap Peterson (D-Fairfax) is representing Zion Springs, a Northern Virginia wedding venue that's suing Governor Ralph Northam.

Gov. Ralph Northam’s rules governing weddings during the pandemic can stay in place, for now. A federal judge in Richmond denied a request to temporarily block those regulations.  

The owner of Zion Springs wedding venue in Northern Virginia says the governor’s COVID-19 restrictions have caused him economic hardship. He alleges in a lawsuit that couples are canceling weddings every week because of social distancing and face mask rules, as well as a requirement that guests be separated by family. 

State Senator Chap Peterson (D-Fairfax) is the attorney representing Zion Springs. He says the rules are more strict for weddings than restaurants. 

“You can’t treat the exercise of religion in a more prejudicial way than you would just ordinary commercial businesses," he said. 

Zion Springs owner Jon Tigges told U.S. District Court Judge John Gibney that couples should have the right to choose how they gather for a wedding. He called Northam’s regulations “draconian," saying his staff was “going crazy” trying to figure where guests are allowed to sit.  

“It’s not very uniting and not very magical,” he said during a court hearing Monday. 

Gibney expressed sympathy for Tigges from the bench. 

“Unfortunately, it just falls like a ton of bricks on people in the hospitality industry,” Gibney said. 

But Gibney denied the request to halt the regulations immediately saying the executive branch has the power to make these rules in an emergency.

Lawyers will be back in court to argue the case August 27. 

 

Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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