MISSOULA, Mont. — Some Montana businesses are pushing back one day after a statewide mask mandate was issued for counties with four or more active cases. The Montana order went into effect around 2 p.m. Wednesday. In the same 24-hour span, other states, as well as retailers like Walmart and Target imposed similar mask requirements.
Montana’s order says everyone over the age of 5 must wear face coverings in indoor public spaces. Masks are also required for outdoor gatherings of 50 people or more when social distancing is impossible.
Heavens Peak Organic Market owner Heather Handy put a sign on the door of her Eureka business right away. It states the market has “decided to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America. We will remain a mask-free zone. If you choose to wear a mask feel free to, if you do not want to wear a mask feel free not to.”
“I personally believe that everybody has a right to their own body and I don’t believe that the governor has a right to tell somebody to mandate mask ordinances,” Handy said. “I think this whole thing has been blown out of proportion. And I absolutely 100% refuse to cooperate with somebody that is being socialistic.”
Reporters asked Gov. Steve Bullock about the constitutionality of this in his press conference Wednesday. He says he has the authority under the Constitution, Article VI, Sections 4 and 13, and the laws of the State of Montana, Title 10, Chapter 3 and Title 50, Chapter 1, MCA and says it’s no different than many other orders, including laws against homicide or laws that require seat belts.
“You’ve got 200 years where, certainly the courts have said for public health mandates and requirements that they’re enforceable public health. You go back to 1918 where literally there were things being put on people’s houses whether they were quarantining or not, that’s why I think a mask is a pretty small step,” Bullock said. “An individual might think they have a constitutional right to get sick if they so choose. But they don’t have a constitutional right to get other people sick. Our liberties are so, so important. But every liberty can be constrained at times for the greater good. The most absurd thing would be saying homicide laws are an infringement on my 2nd Amendment rights.”
We asked Handy if she worries about possible penalties for not complying with the mask directive. She says she has a right to free speech and to pursue happiness, and she’ll cross that bridge if she comes to it. She says things like driving are a privilege you take a test for, and there’s a God-given right to walk, dress and freely speak.
No matter where you stand on this, it’s clear it’s something people feel very strongly about on both sides and it’s likely not going to simmer down anytime soon.