Republican state legislatures are pushing to enact laws that, much like the federal civil rights laws that provide protections surrounding gender, race and religion, would ban discrimination against people who do not have the COVID-19 vaccine.
Several states, including Alabama, Arizona, Florida, and Texas, have passed legislation that bans the use vaccine passports, but some states are pushing further to protect against current and potential discrimination of people based on whether or not they have received the COVID vaccine.
Montana is leading the way as the only state so far to pass such a bill into law. Montana lawmakers and the governor made it illegal to deny “goods, facilities, advantages, privileges, licensing, educational opportunities, health care access, or employment opportunities based on the person's vaccination status.”
The law was passed on the basis of a person’s right to medical privacy, which is protected under Article II, section 10 of the Montana Constitution.
“This is a civil rights statute. It absolutely is," said Nicholas Bagley, a law professor at the University of Michigan. "What this law is saying is that a restriction directed at the unvaccinated is prohibited in the same way as you'd be prohibited from putting up a sign saying, 'No Irish Admitted.'"
Upon signing a ban on vaccine passports into law, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said on May 3, “In Florida, your personal choice regarding vaccinations will be protected and no business or government entity will be able to deny you services based on your decision.”
However, some are concerned that this kind of legislation takes away the incentive to get vaccinated. Georgetown law professor Lawrence Gostin said it is “undermining the national vaccine campaign.”
“The whole idea behind a good vaccination campaign is making not getting vaccinated the harder choice, and getting vaccinated the easy choice. Right now it’s the exact opposite — it’s easier not to be vaccinated,” said Gostin.
Mandatory vaccinations and restrictions for unvaccinated persons have been a concern for many throughout the pandemic, mostly among conservatives.
Back in November 2020, conservative activist Candace Owens posted to Twitter: “Mandatory vaccinations will be next with required vaccination IDs to enter businesses and to travel. Mark my words.”
Mandatory vaccinations will be next with required vaccination IDs to enter businesses and to travel.— Candace Owens (@RealCandaceO) November 15, 2020
Mark my words.
Just recently, Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA, appeared on Fox News with Tucker Carlson to discuss Kirk’s “No Forced Vax” campaign, combating college campuses that are not allowing students to return in the fall unless they have the COVID-19 vaccine.
Kirk said their effort is about defending “medical freedom and privacy,” and “At Turning Point USA, we are going to give everything we have to make sure that students are not going to have to live in a medical apartheid because they don’t want to get the vaccine.”