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TALLAHASSEE, Florida (LifeSiteNews) — Helmed by its firebrand Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida is leading 20 other states in suing the Biden administration over its on-going mandate requiring Americans to wear masks on commercial airplanes and other forms of public transportation.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody filed the lawsuit against the federal government Tuesday, representing Florida along with 20 other states that want to see the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mask mandate ended for public transportation. 

The lawsuit alleges that the mandate, which is enforced by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), violates both the U.S. Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

“Faced with a government that displays outright disdain for the limits on its power — especially when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic — Plaintiffs seek vacatur of that mask mandate and a permanent injunction against its enforcement,” the 30-page lawsuit reads in part.

The public transportation mask mandate, which has been in place for some 14 months, was due to expire in March 2022 but was extended by Biden administration officials until at least April 18.

“We’ve been very clear that we want people to be able to make their own decisions. We don’t believe in COVID theater,” said Gov. DeSantis during a press conference at the state Capitol in Tallahassee, adding that “forcing people to wear masks on airplanes” isn’t “something that’s grounded in any science.”

Noting that Florida is a popular destination for tourists, DeSantis suggested that “more people would want to fly if they did not have to” wear masks to travel.

According to the lawsuit, which argues the CDC mask rule is “unlawful,” states are being forced to “expend resources to enforce the mandate” or risk criminal and civil penalties.

The filing also asserts that “the mandate harms Plaintiffs’ sovereign interests,” since many states “have laws or policies prohibiting or discouraging mask requirements in contexts where the mask mandate applies,” i.e. states which have banned mask mandates in schools must still enforce masking on school buses under the CDC mandate. 

“Third, the mask mandate harms the Plaintiffs’ quasi-sovereign interests in the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens,” the lawsuit adds. “Forced masking— especially for toddlers—causes a variety of negative health consequences, including psychological harms, reduced oxygenation, reduced sanitation, and delayed speech development.”

The states named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit are: Florida, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia.

LifeSiteNews reached out to the CDC and the TSA for comment. The TSA told LifeSite they don’t comment on pending litigation. The CDC has not yet responded.

Meanwhile, the massive lawsuit against the Biden administration comes after the CEOs of all major U.S. airlines wrote an open letter addressed to President Joe Biden last week calling for a halt to the mandate.

“The persistent and steady decline of hospitalization and death rates are the most compelling indicators that our country is well protected against severe disease from COVID-19,” the letter read. “Given that we have entered a different phase of dealing with this virus, we strongly support your view that ‘COVID-19 need no longer control our lives.’”

The airline CEOs referred to updated guidance from the CDC, which last week stripped back its mask recommendations for over 99% of indoor venues, arguing that “[i]t makes no sense that people are still required to wear masks on airplanes, yet are allowed to congregate in crowded restaurants, schools and at sporting events without masks, despite none of these venues having the protective air filtration system that aircraft do.”

According to the CEOs, the federal reversal of the mask mandate for public transportation, including airplanes and airports, would not only benefit “the traveling public,” but “the thousands of airline employees charged with enforcing a patchwork of now-outdated regulations implemented in response to COVID-19.”

“It is critical to recognize that the burden of enforcing both the mask and predeparture testing requirements has fallen on our employees for two years now,” the letter noted. “This is not a function they are trained to perform and subjects them to daily challenges by frustrated customers. This in turn takes a toll on their own well-being.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate voted 57-40 against the federal mask mandate after Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky introduced a resolution calling for an immediate end to the requirement. 

The vote came after the CEOs of Southwest Airlines and American Airlines testified in a December Senate committee hearing that masks did little if anything to stop the spread of COVID-19 on planes.