Florida appeal continues fight over cruise vaccination rule

After a long pause, Florida this week asked a federal court to vacate the preliminary injunction granted to Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) in August permitting it to require that passengers provide proof of vaccination in order to cruise. 

The state said in August that it would appeal the preliminary injunction handed down by U.S. district judge Kathleen Williams, a blow to Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who earlier this year signed an executive order forbidding businesses from requiring documentation of vaccine status, which then became state law.

In documents filed this week with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Florida argued that the lower court “held that a multibillion-dollar company likely has a constitutional right to refuse service to prospective customers who fail to disclose private medical documentation. The Constitution gives companies no such right, and the District Court’s decision must be reversed.”

Florida argued that its law prohibits businesses from “conditioning service” based on providing Covid-19 vaccination proof, but not asking for it. 

“Norwegian may still request that documentation from its customers, its customers may voluntarily provide it, and both parties are free to discuss the topic,” the state said. “What Norwegian may not do is deny service to customers who fail to provide that documentation.”

The state said that its law “protects Floridians’ individual liberties, protects their privacy in personal health information, prevents discrimination by disallowing businesses from conditioning service on the provision of documentation evidencing Covid-19 vaccination and promotes an open and vibrant economy.

And speaking to NCLH’s argument that many of the ports it sails to require that visitors be vaccinated, the state said, “the requirements of foreign ports should not dictate the limits of local public policy in Florida.” 

In a 60-page ruling in early August, Williams wrote said there was no “evidentiary support to show that residents have experienced intrusions on their medical privacy or discrimination because some businesses, including cruise lines, have required Covid-19 vaccination documentation” and that discrimination against unvaccinated guests would probably hold up in court.

“Courts have suggested that the unvaccinated population is not a protected class that enjoys a fundamental constitutional right to remain unvaccinated,” she wrote.

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