The reversal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo came hours after the NYCLU claimed the state's selective ban violated the First Amendment
ALBANY – New York will allow all gatherings of up to 10 people with proper social distancing after a civil liberties group filed a lawsuit Friday challenging the state's prior ban.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order reversing the ban on nonessential gatherings of any size, which first took effect March 23 as the coronavirus continued its rapid spreadthrough New York.
Now, up to 10 people will be allowed to meet for birthday parties, barbecues and any other nonessential gathering for "any lawful purpose or reason," provided people keep six feet of distance and adhere to the Department of Health's cleaning and disinfecting protocols, according to Cuomo's new order.
The order came a day after Cuomo relaxed the ban only for religious ceremonies and Memorial Day ceremonies, which the New York Civil Liberties Union argued violated the First Amendment by excluding protesters and others looking to practice free speech.
The NYCLU filed a lawsuit Friday in Manhattan federal court on behalf of Linda Bouferguen of Brooklyn, who was arrested twice outside New York City Hall for organizing and participating in a pair of demonstrations against the state's economic shutdown while the gathering ban was in effect.
The organization provided a copy of the new executive order, which was not posted on the governor's website as of 7 p.m. Friday.
"We're glad to see the governor reverse course on his executive order from last night," Chris Dunn, the NYCLU's legal director and lead attorney, said in a statement.
"The right to protest and exercise free speech is the foundation of all our other liberties, and during a crisis is exactly when we need to be most vigilant about protecting it."
Spokespeople for Cuomo did not immediately return requests for comment Friday evening.
New York has been hit harder by COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, than any other state.
As of Friday, the state reported more than 358,000 confirmed cases of the virus and 23,000 confirmed deaths.