Sen. Joe Gruters wants everyone who can to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, but businesses better not start discriminating against those who don’t.
The Sarasota Republican filed legislation (SB 364) Tuesday that would prohibit discrimination “on the basis of personal health information.” In short, the Senator doesn’t want stores and restaurants demanding to see papers verifying customers had their shots.
“My fear is, you already see people showing vaccine cards,” he said. “I’m not anti-vaccine, I assure you. Go out and get it. But some people will choose not to be vaccinated, and they should not be discriminated against in public. I believe in the freedom to choose.”
Gruters distanced himself from politicians who have stoked anti-vaccination sentiment, pointing to comments by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who as recently as October said she wouldn’t trust a vaccine pushed by President Donald Trump until scientists she trusted gave their approval.
But whether someone decides not to take the vaccine or not shouldn’t determine if they get a table at a restaurant or are allowed to shop in a local store, Gruters believes.
Gruters noted it’s not just rhetoric that will stop some people from receiving shots. Many will have underlying health concerns that make them hesitant to take a new vaccine and might prevent them from ever receiving it.
“This is like a physical condition,” he said. “The big thing is you just can’t discriminate against others based on medical conditions.”
With vaccines in limited supply now, it will likely be some time before businesses try to impose requirements on customers and clients. But Gruters wants the state to take a stance now before anyone needs a card proving a vaccination to get past the Walmart greeters.
He dismissed comparison to stores with no-shoes, no-service policies. He also saw a difference between this and stores requiring masks. He did note that Gov. Ron DeSantis has put a stop to penalties for violating local mask ordinances.
“The Governor has done an incredible job protecting freedom in our state,” Gruters said. “I know he will do everything he can to stand for freedom.”
Protecting those who don’t choose to be vaccinated from discrimination in Florida would do just that, Gruters said.