Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs, right, listens as Gov. Tate Reeves responds to a reporter's question regarding his executive order mandating that all adults and students wear masks in schools, unless there's a medical reason that prevents them from doing so, during the governor's COVID-19 press briefing in Jackson, Miss., on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Gov. Tate Reeves on Friday announced the filing of a lawsuit challenging President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees of companies that have contracts with the federal government.

The lawsuit, first filed by the Indiana attorney general, is joined by the attorney general from Louisiana and Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in the Western District of Louisiana.

Reeves also promised he is working with Fitch to file another lawsuit challenging the president’ vaccine mandate for companies with 100 or more employees.

For much of the pandemic, Reeves imposed mask mandates and other mandates for large swarths of the state. But this past summer as the COVID-19 delta variant surged and overwhelmed hospitals, the Republican governor refused to impose any mandates even as Mississippi became the state with the highest fatality rate per capita from the coronavirus. Mississippi also is one of the nation’s least vaccinated states.

READ MORE: Reeves downplays Mississippi’s highest-in-nation COVID death rate

The lawsuit claimed Biden’s efforts at stemming the spread of COVID-19 are unconstitutional.

“The Biden regime has used World War II era procurement laws to impose a vaccine mandate on one-fifth of all Americans,” Reeves said in a statement. “The unprecedented and clearly unconstitutional contractor vaccine mandate is the desperate act of a fading tyrant frustrated by Americans exercising their fundamental rights of freedom and self-determination.”

READ MORE: Wicker, Hyde-Smith join other Mississippi Republicans in opposing Biden vaccine mandate

The mandate for private companies employing more than 100 people is based on provisions of law giving the federal government the authority to impose regulations to ensure worker safety.

The guidelines for the mandate allow exemptions for religious and health reasons.

Various Republican leaders nationwide have filed lawsuits and voiced opposition to the Biden mandate. Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn sent a letter to House members expressing his opposition.

“I believe strongly the government should not force any Mississippian to take the vaccine against his or her will,” the speaker wrote.

As political leaders of the state for multiple years, both Gunn and Reeves have been imposing vaccine mandates. For decades there have been multiple vaccine mandates in the country, including in Mississippi. Vaccines are mandated to enter secondary schools and universities. On the national level, the military for years has required vaccines and vaccines have been required for American citizens to travel to certain countries.

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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.