The lawsuit alleged that the Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin lacks the requisite authority to mandate coronavirus vaccinations for National Guard personnel.
A federal judge in Oklahoma has ruled against the state, which sought to overturn the United States military mandate that members of the National Guard—as well as other servicepeople—receive mandatory coronavirus vaccinations as a condition of continued employment.
According to The Military Times, U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot denied Oklahoma’s request for a preliminary injunction against the vaccine order, finding that claims made by plaintiffs Gov. Kevin Stitt, Attorney General John O’Connor, and 16 anonymous members of the National Guard were without merit.
“The vaccine mandate to which the governor objects is the one — in addition to the nine that already apply to all service members — intended to protect service members from the virus which has, in less than two years, killed more Americans than have been killed in action in all of the wars the United States has ever fought,” Friot wrote in his ruling. “The court is required to decide the case on the basis of federal law, not common sense. But, either way, the result would be the same.”
Newsweek notes that Oklahoma’s Republican-dominated state government has vocally opposed vaccine mandates. When the lawsuit was first filed, Gov. Stitt released a statement saying that U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin lacked the constitutional authority to require that servicepeople get inoculated against novel coronavirus.
Shortly after Stitt and O’Connor filed their complaint, the adjutant general of the Oklahoma National Guard—Brig. Gen. Thomas Mancino—penned an open letter warning Oklahoma Army and Air National Guard members that refusing to take the vaccine could cut their careers short.
Austin, says Newsweek, had said that National Guardsmen and women who did not get vaccinated would be ineligible to participate in federally funded drills and other training—both of which are conditions of continued employment in the Guard.
In his order, Austin said that mandatory vaccinations are a critical step in ensuring that American soldiers are healthy and ready to defend the United States whenever needed.
Pentagon officials, notes Newsweek, have repeatedly said that Austin has the authority to establish and enforce medical readiness requirements, including vaccines, for the entire military—including the different states’ National Guards.
Judge Friot observed in his ruling that, to date, 89% of Oklahoma’s Air National Guard servicemembers have been vaccinated, while only 40% of Army guardsmen have been vaccinated.
Army National Guard members have until the end of June to become fully vaccinated.