Oklahoma's governor and attorney general have filed a lawsuit challenging the Department of Defense’s coronavirus vaccination requirement for their state's National Guard.

Gov. Kevin Stitt and Attorney General John O’Connor filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma on Thursday on behalf of 16 Oklahoma Air National Guard members.


The two sides have argued for weeks about whether Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin overstepped his constitutional authority by subjecting the National Guard to the mandate.

“The concerns raised in your letter do not negate the need for this important military readiness requirement,” the secretary wrote to Stitt earlier this week, saying the decision to deny the request “stems directly from my responsibility as the Secretary of Defense to promote the health, safety, and readiness of our military personnel.”

In a separate memo to the military services, Austin announced National Guardsmen who refuse the vaccine will not be paid.

“No Department of Defense funding may be allocated for payment of duties performed under title 32 for members of the National Guard who do not comply with Department of Defense COVID-19 vaccination requirements,” Austin wrote in a memo to the secretaries of the military services on Tuesday.

In a statement announcing the lawsuit, Stitt responded to Austin’s correspondence.

“This week, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin declared his intention to proceed with unconstitutional punishment that individually targets Oklahoma National Guard soldiers and airmen, including withholding their pay,“ he said. “It is unconscionable that President Biden and his administration are choosing to play politics with military paychecks, especially amid the highest inflation rate in 30 years and so close to the holiday season.”

“Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate ensures that many Oklahoma National Guard members will simply quit instead of getting a vaccine, a situation that will irreparably harm Oklahomans’ safety and security,” said O’Connor in a statement. “These patriots, along with many federal employees, who serve their country and their state are now at risk of being terminated because they do not wish to take the vaccine.”

The Oklahoma governor and attorney general are hoping the court will find the vaccine mandate unlawful under 5 U.S.C. § 3301, 5 U.S.C. § 3302, 5 U.S.C. § 7301, the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause, the Fourth Amendment as an unreasonable search and seizure, the First Amendment, and other statutes laid out in the suit.

A Department of Defense spokesperson declined to comment on the suit, though the representative pointed the Washington Examiner to a previous remark from Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.

“All Service members in the Active and Reserve Components are required to comply with the valid medical readiness requirement established by the Secretary of Defense to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. We are not aware of any Governor attempting to prohibit members from receiving the vaccine, and don’t see this as placing any individual member in conflict with state authorities," he said in the statement.


"Failure to receive the vaccine may jeopardize an individual member’s status in the National Guard; any impact to a members status in their state militia is an issue for state authorities," Kirby added. "The Governors may not relieve individual members of the Guard from their obligation to comply with this valid medical readiness requirement established by the Department.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.