Several red states have pushed bills to protect the unvaccinated with language similar to anti-discrimination laws, which prohibit discrimination based on “race, gender and religion.” Montana has already passed a law that prohibits discrimination against the unvaccinated with some exceptions in the healthcare sector. If other states pass similar laws, they will tie the hands of of private businesses that want to protect their employees and customers. Coincidently, the states moving forward with such legislation also happen to have low vaccination rates and rising COVID-19 cases.
“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.”
Fortunately, many of these bills have numerous loopholes or ‘limited application,” that may not fully protect unvaccinated residents who could still face consequences for their decision. But what these bills tell us is the choice to get vaccinated has become so politicized.
A run down on a few of the ‘New Civil Rights’ bills to protect the poor and victimized unvaccinated:
- Montana: 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.
- Alabama: If passed, prevents schools and universities from requiring coronavirus vaccines, prohibits vaccination as a condition of receiving government services, and bans businesses from refusing to serve someone based on their vaccine status.
“If we’re ever going to get to anywhere near herd immunity, we’re going to need people to be getting vaccines where they work, where they learn, where they recreate and where they play,” Gostin said. “A lot of what they’re doing is really undermining the national vaccine campaign.”