Thursday, July 15, 2021

Republicans Push To Ban Discrimination Against The Unvaccinated "New Black" New Black"

axios  |  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 make 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."

Between the lines: The states with restrictions on vaccine requirements tend to have lower vaccination rates than those without such laws, and cases are on the rise in several of them.

  • Most of the measures are full of loopholes or have limited application, meaning unvaccinated residents may still face consequences for their decision.
  • But vaccine requirements aren't very popular in general among employers, experts said, although it is relatively common among private businesses to have different rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated employees or customers.

Rather, the laws and low vaccination rates in states that have them both stem from the politicization of vaccination.

  • "It’s difficult to see exactly why there’s such an intense reaction here, except through the lens of hyper-partisan politics; that this has just become another signal of party affiliation," said Nicholas Bagley, a law professor at the University of Michigan.

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