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Federal judge says health care workers who sued Mills over COVID vaccine can't stay anonymous

The plaintiffs, eight Maine health care workers and one provider, have until July 8 to file an amended complaint using their names.

MAINE, Maine — A federal court judge ruled Tuesday that eight Maine health care workers and one provider suing Gov. Janet Mills over a COVID vaccine mandate cannot do so anonymously.

Chief U.S. District Judge Jon D. Levy ruled the plaintiffs must file an amended complaint identifying themselves by name by June 7 in order for the suit to continue.

On July 7, the district court has extended the date to July 8, pending ruling from the appellate court, in which the plaintiffs must identify themselves in order to proceed with the case.

The plaintiffs are represented by Daniel J Schmid of the Florida-based conservative group Liberty Counsel.

"[T]he plaintiffs have not shown that their fear of severe harm if their identifies are revealed is objectively reasonable," he wrote, adding that their privacy interests were not shown "to outweigh the public interest associated with the presumption of openness that applies to civil proceedings."

The publishers of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, Kennebec Journal, Morning Sentinel, and Sun Journal challenged in court the plaintiffs' use of pseudonyms.

The plaintiffs cited religious beliefs opposing the COVID vaccine and said their opposition was based in part on their opposition to abortion and belief that fetal stem cells were used in the development of the vaccine, Levy wrote.

"As someone might not feel that strongly about revealing whether they got the flu vaccine or the measles mumps and rubella vaccine many of us received as children, there's much more public animosity towards people who oppose covid vaccination, especially on religious grounds," Roger Gannam, assistant vice president of legal affairs for Liberty Counsel, told NEWS CENTER Maine.

The plaintiffs also said they were at a heightened risk of "severe social stigma and worse" if their identities were revealed and cited as evidence: anonymous online comments on the Bangor Daily News website. But Levy said the comments "express hostility" toward the opposition to being vaccinated, not against the plaintiffs themselves. 

On Wednesday, the Liberty Counsel, representing the plaintiffs, filed an intent to appeal the decision.

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