Caitlin Owens of Axios writes that Republican-controlled states are considering or have enacted laws that ban discrimination against people who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19. In Florida, for example, Governor Ron DeSantis has told cruise lines that they may not require passengers to provide proof of vaccination. Cruise ships are notorious breeders of the virus because hundreds or thousands of people live in close quarters. Would you take a cruise with people who were unvaccinated?

She writes:

State Republican lawmakers around the country are pushing bills — at least one of which has become law — that would give unvaccinated people the same protections as those surrounding race, gender and religion. 

Why it matters: These bills would tie the hands of private businesses that want to protect their employees and customers. But they also show how deep into the political psyche resistance to coronavirus vaccine requirements has become, and how vaccination status has rapidly become a marker of identity.

The big picture: On a national scale, well-known GOP figures have recently escalated their rhetoric about the vaccination effort, comparing it to Nazi Germany and apartheid.

  • At a state level, there’s more bite to the bark. Many Republican-led states have enacted some kind of restriction on vaccine mandates or vaccine “passports.” 
  • And some state lawmakers are trying to it illegal for employers, governments or private businesses to treat unvaccinated people any differently than vaccinated people, using the same language found in federal civil rights law. 

“When we think about the normal discrimination statutes…we have protected classes based on something that is sort of inherent to you, with religion maybe being the one that is a choice,” said Lowell Pearson, a managing partner at Husch Blackwell, which has been tracking the bills. “But vaccination status you certainly can control….”

Montana has made it illegal to “discriminate” on the basis of vaccine status, with some exceptions within the health care sector.

  • The law prohibits businesses, governmental entities and places of “public accommodation” — like grocery stores, hotels or restaurants — from refusing to serve or withholding goods from anyone based on their vaccination status or whether they have an “immunity passport.”
  • Employers aren’t allowed to discriminate against or refuse to employ someone based on the same criteria.

My note: attitudes towards vaccination are divided along partisan lines. The majority of anti-vaxxers are Republican, despite the fact that Trump and his wife are vaccinated (albeit not on camera).