The Texas Supreme Court ruled on Sunday to allow an executive order signed by Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, prohibiting local governments from mandating masks and vaccines to enter public and private establishments, to proceed.
Ruling on the battle between state and local city councils, the court granted the governor a stay order, which legally prevents mask mandates from taking place in Bexar, Dallas, Harris, and Travis counties while the case awaits its next hearing.
The judges’ decision this week is emblematic of the ongoing point of contention on conflicting state versus local laws relating to COVID-19 restrictions.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton cited a provision within the Constitution of Texas that states the Texas Disaster Act of 1975 makes the Governor the “commander in chief” of the State’s response to a disaster, which therefore permits him to issue executive orders that have the “force and effect of law.”
Abbott clarified that the executive order does not ban wearing masks in itself, but it helps prevent local businesses and establishments from mandating that Texan residents wear one against their will. Masks will remain a choice for those who wish to continue wearing one.
“The ban doesn’t prohibit using masks. Anyone who wants to wear a mask can do so, including in schools,” the governor tweeted Monday to clarify the ruling.
However, despite the ruling, several city councils and school districts within Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio reportedly defied the mandates and requested temporary restraining orders against Abbott’s orders – still requiring employees, visitors, and students to wear a mask.
The governor has repeatedly stated that it is not his intention to make anyone feel uncomfortable as leaders navigate coronavirus prevention, while making it clear that he supports measures that protect individual freedoms and rights.
Although several school districts have indicated they will keep their mask mandates in place, the Texas Supreme Court ruling establishes that the state maintains higher legal standing than local councils.