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In Major Win for Florida, Federal Court Rules Against Vaccine Passports

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit struck down a preliminary injunction against Florida’s ban on vaccine passports.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA — In a major win for the DeSantis administration – and people everywhere who value the privacy of their medical information and their ability to move around in society without totalitarian checkpoints – a federal appeals court today struck down a preliminary injunction against Florida’s ban on vaccine passports.

Norwegian Cruise Lines had sued Florida in federal court over the state law prohibiting vaccine passports. In August 2021, U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams issued a preliminary injunction, backing Norwegian’s arguments that the ban violated the First Amendment and the dormant Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“We vacate the preliminary injunction. Florida’s statute is a regulation of economic conduct that only incidentally burdens speech, which does not implicate the First Amendment. And its burdens on interstate commerce do not exceed the benefits of furthering Florida’s substantial interests in protecting its residents from discrimination and invasions of privacy,” Chief Judge William Pryor of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit wrote in the judgment.

Bryan Griffin, Governor DeSantis’ press secretary, commented on the ruling: “No one should be forced into making a medical decision – like taking the COVID vaccine – to keep their job or visit a business otherwise open to the public. We appreciate this ruling from the court and will continue fighting to keep Florida free of vaccine passports.”

Of the three judges on the panel, one did not agree with the decision. Judge Robin S. Rosenbaum, an Obama appointee, penned a 68-page dissenting opinion. But the other judges vehemently disagreed with her legal arguments: “The dissent has it backwards. The State—not an Article III court—has the constitutional authority to determine what is and is not a “reasonable distinction” between its citizens and what qualifies as discrimination worth remedying,” Judge Pryor and Judge Brasher wrote.

On Thursday, Norwegian Cruise Lines CEO Frank del Rio announced that the company would end all COVID requirements on its cruises. “COVID today is not what it was two years ago. Society has spoken and has determined we want to get back to normal. I think that having any kind of protocol today is a hindrance to business,” Del Rio told Fox Business.