Appleby v. Bowser

Free association and expression is not limited to some activities and not others, even during times of health crisis.

The District of Columbia currently allows dancing in exotic establishments, in Zumba and dance-studio classes, and in programs sponsored by the government’s Department of Parks and Recreation. However, the Mayor of the District of Columbia, Muriel Bowser, on May 1, 2021, used her emergency executive orders to outlaw dancing at weddings.

Many couples, eager to follow all required and appropriate protocols, have been doing everything they can in order to have a safe wedding amidst the COVID-19. Margaret Appleby and her fiancé are one of those couples who took those steps, including getting vaccinated. Margaret Appleby had intended on having her wedding with masked dancing, but under new rules implemented by Mayor Bowser, this is no longer permitted.

In March 2020, the couple booked a venue for their wedding to take place in June 2021. Mayor Bowser subsequently issued a series of executive orders aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19. However, Mayor Bowser’s latest Order is inconsistent with restrictions placed on other venues. The District of Columbia currently allows exercise classes and dance studios to operate in a group format while being subject to social distancing requirements. The District even allows exotic dancing establishments to operate, with performers both dancing on stage and interacting with guests.

Mayor Bowser’s Order implementing a complete ban on a category of expressive activity is a clear First Amendment violation. Therefore, Margaret Appleby is suing Mayor Muriel Bowser for violating her First Amendment rights to expression and association. Attorneys from the Liberty Justice Center are representing Appleby and her fiancé. They’ve filed a complaint against Mayor Bowser asking a federal court to take action and prevent this Order from being enforced.


Jeffrey Schwab

Jeffrey M. Schwab

Jeffrey M. Schwab is a Senior Counsel at the Liberty Justice Center, where he litigates cases to protect the rights to free speech, economic liberty, private property and other Constitutional rights in both federal and state courts across the country.

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Case In The News

May 13, 2021
Liberty Justice Center Senior Attorney Daniel Suhr and bride-to-be Margaret Appleby appeared on Fox and Friends to discuss DC's dancing ban....

Case Documents

May 10, 2021
May 17, 2021



Appleby v. Bowser


May 10, 2021


United States District Court for the District of Columbia




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