TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — New bills intended to make medical freedom permanent and block loopholes in the COVID agenda are currently moving through the Florida Legislature. Senate Bill 222 – “Protection of Medical Freedom” – was filed on January 23 this year by Republican State Sen. Joe Gruters and co-sponsored by State Sen. Keith Perry. Its sister bill in the House, HB 305, is sponsored by State Rep. Webster Barnaby.
In summary, the bill sets out to make the following provisions into law:
- Prohibiting employers from refusing employment to, or discharging, disciplining, demoting, or otherwise discriminating against, an individual solely on the basis of vaccination or immunity status.
- Revising the purposes of the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 to include discrimination protection for vaccination or immunity status.
- Prohibiting the Department of Health from requiring enrollment in the state’s immunization registry or otherwise requiring persons to submit to immunization tracking.
- Prohibiting business and governmental entities from requiring individuals to provide proof of vaccination or post-infection recovery from any disease to gain access to, entry upon, or service from such entities.
Most people may have thought that all bases for protecting medical freedom were now covered under Florida law – especially given the strong measures taken by Governor DeSantis’ in this area – but this is not the case, says two medical freedom advocates that The Florida Standard spoke with.
“On the surface, it looks like this was all taken care of. But there were loopholes, and people were still being discriminated against,” says Justin Harvey, grassroots organizer and leader of We Are Change Orlando.
With the new bill, Harvey explains, employers will not be able to ask about proof of vaccination, thus making a two-tiered society based on biomedical status unenforceable.
“At Disney, for example – if you were unvaccinated, you had to wear a mask, goggles, use a separate break room… When DeSantis outlawed vaccine passports, companies and organizations then implemented rules that you had to have a negative COVID test,” Harvey says.
The Florida Standard reached out to Disney to confirm the company's COVID policies and workplace rules, but received no response.
SUNSETS IN JUNE
The Special Session bill HB 1B from 2021 that guaranteed Floridians more freedom from authoritarian COVID measures than any state in the nation will “sunset” on June 1 – which means that those regulations will automatically expire.
Governor DeSantis has previously stated that he wants to make the medical freedom protections he championed into permanent law. The sunset clause is the main reason why medical freedom advocates are so adamant about SB 222 and HB 305.
“With SB 222, the loopholes that allow businesses and government to discriminate against Floridians will be permanently closed and we will have true medical freedom in our state,” Justin Harvey explains.
WORKING WITH BARNABY AND GRUTERS
The bills originate from the efforts by medical freedom advocate Mo Van Hoek, president of the organization Health Freedom Florida. Van Hoek is convinced that her son was injured by childhood vaccines, which led to him becoming permanently disabled, needing caretakers around the clock.
Van Hoek has been trying to get lawmaker’s attention since 2019, when she noticed that a bill creating a state vaccination register was moving through the Legislature. HB 213 was passed, and now Van Hoek and her allies in the House and Senate are working to get it rescinded by introducing SB 222 and HB 305.
“Fortunately, I found State Rep. Webster Barnaby – a true patriot and hero – who immediately agreed to champion the bill. And so did Sen. Gruters for the Senate. He said that the time to do this is now, and they have worked together to present identical bills, which means there won’t be any negotiations about the bill language between the House and the Senate,” Van Hoek explains to The Florida Standard.
She has created the website vaxbully.com – a place where people can tell their stories of medical discrimination in Florida.