Coronavirus: Republican lawmaker kicked out of Illinois House session for refusing to wear mask

'The representative has shown a callous disregard for life, callous disregard for people’s health'

Graig Graziosi
Thursday 21 May 2020 22:04
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Illinois state representative removed from legislative session for not wearing mask

Illinois' House of Representatives voted this week to kick one of its members out of legislative sessions for repeatedly refusing to wear a mask.

On the day State Rep Darren Bailey was kicked out, the state's House enacted rules stating all members, staffers and visitors at the Bank of Springfield Center - the state's temporary legislative venue - had to wear masks if they were medically able.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Mr Bailey - who represents a rural district in southern Illinois - said he "will not" when asked to wear a mask.

Mr Bailey's defiant act of not wearing a small cloth mask was punctuated with a dramatic declaration that to banish him would be akin to silencing the voice of the people.

"[If] you want to send me or anyone else outside the doors today, I understand. Go right ahead. But know this: If you do that, you're silencing millions of voices of people who have had enough," Mr Bailey said according to a local NPR affiliate.

As a result, Democratic Rep Emanuel Welch made a motion to remove Mr Bailey, which passed by an 81-27 margin.

Mr Bailey has been an outspoken sceptic of Democratic-led coronavirus response measures, going so far as to sue the state's governor, JB Pritzker, over his stay-at-home executive order. The lawmaker won a temporary restraining order against Mr Pritzker's orders - which only applied to him - last month. His broader case is still ongoing.

When asked by the Washington Post why he refused to wear a mask, he said he thought the masks were "just another Democrat bullying tactic" and claimed wearing them was "not about health."

"This whole thing that it's concern for other people? I don't buy that at all," he said.

Mr Bailey said he'd wear one if he became concerned for his own personal health, but he does not want to be told that he has to wear the mask, which is intended to protect other people.

Mr Pritzker didn't hold back voicing his disdain for Mr Bailey's actions.

"The representative has shown a callous disregard for life, callous disregard for people's health," Mr Pritzker said. "You just heard a doctor tell you why to wear a mask in the first place. It's to protect others. So clearly, the representative has no interest in protecting others."

Mr Bailey even earned the criticism of his Republican colleagues.

"I don't think the people that sent us here to represent them today intended for us to focus our time on a mask showdown of whether you're wearing it or you're not," state Rep Dan Brady said.

Under the state's face mask rule, lawmakers who are removed may return to legislative sessions if they wear a mask. Mr Bailey said he was not sure if he would return.

"I don't know. That's something where I'll have to decide whether to go back tomorrow and wear a mask or not," he said.

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