North Canton area business among the plaintiffs.
The Ohio Department of Health’s order enforcing the closure of gyms and fitness centers is being challenged in a lawsuit brought on behalf of 35 independent gyms across the state.
The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, a law firm based in Columbus, has filed the suit in Lake County Common Pleas Court in Painesville, a suburb east of Cleveland.
The suit contends that the state as of April 30 had opened a path for many industries and business to open, but it left gyms closed indefinitely.
Some of the local gyms participating in the suit are: Unrivaled Strength & Fitness in Jackson Township ; Friendship Fitness in Dublin; Summit Martial Arts in Delaware; Ohio Strength in Italian Village; Lexen Xtreme Strength Training in Grove City; Raider Fitness LLC Crossfit in Pickerington; and The Spot Athletics LTD and Warehouse Gym & Fitness LLC, which are both on the Northwest Side.
The suit is seeking a declaratory judgment and an injunction that would allow the gyms to reopen. The facilities were closed March 23 at the order of Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health. The Lake County General Health District, which administers the state orders in that county, is also named as a party.
The complaint contends that the state’s discretion over matters of quarantine and isolation is vague and violates the separation of powers.
While Acton and local health departments have some latitude to enforce regulations during a pandemic, they are still subject to limitations imposed by the Ohio Constitution, the suit contends.
Gyms and fitness centers have their rights to due process and equal protection under the state law, the suit states, and the the gyms say they could comply with safety regulations set by the state on April 30 and reopen.
As it stands, state and local health departments have the right to criminalize and fine the operation of gym and recreation, even if safety precautions are taken, the suit said.
“This harm may only be remedied by a ruling from this Court, and Defendants must be immediately and permanently enjoined from imposing criminal, civil or equitable sanctions on the safe operation of Ohio gyms, including Plaintiffs,” the suit says.
Maurice Thompson, executive director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, which advocates against government overreach, said that “Ohio gyms are capable of operating safely, and have the right to operate on equal terms with other Ohio businesses.”
“Once gyms have opened, we are committed to ensuring that these arbitrary policies never recur,” Thompson said.
Gov. Mike DeWine said during his daily coronavirus briefing that the state is working on a plan to reopen gums and fitness centers, but has nothing to announce yet.
“I get sued a lot,” DeWine said.
The operator of one Stark County facility taking part in the lawsuit, Lucas Training in Jackson Township, is not pleased with the state decision to keep independent gyms and fitness centers closed.
"You have tattoo parlors opening up, you can get a haircut, you can get a massage," said Don Lucas. "But you can't go into a gym. I do a lot of rehab work. I consider myself essential. I don't understand the thought process of not opening up training centers."
Dispatch reporter Randy Ludlow and Canton Repository reporter Malcolm Hall contributed to this report.