Texas governor bans segregation based on vaccination status

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Texans who opt not to take a COVID-19 vaccine can’t be punished for their refusal. On June 7, Texas Gov. Mark Abbott signed a new law that stops private businesses and government offices from asking clients for proof of vaccination. He announced the new law in a tweet that stated, “Texas is open 100%. Texans should have the freedom to go where they want without any limits, restrictions, or requirements.”

Although he emphasized “the freedom” to go places “without any limits, restrictions, or requirements,” Abbott had mandated masks for more than eight months.

The new law, formerly known as SB968, also contains a section prohibiting vaccine passports.

Section 161.0085 of the legislation contains the directive that businesses in Texas may not require customers to show papers containing proof of having either taken the vaccine or having recovered from COVID-19. It reads:

A business in this state may not require a customer to provide any documentation certifying the customer’s COVID-19 vaccination or post-transmission recovery on entry to, to gain access to, or to receive service from the business. A business that fails to comply with this subsection is not eligible to receive a grant or enter into a contract payable with state funds.

This section also takes aim at vaccination passports, stating: “A governmental entity in this state may not issue a vaccine passport, vaccine pass, or other standardized documentation to certify an individual’s COVID-19 vaccination status to a third party for a purpose other than health care or otherwise publish or share any individual’s COVID-19 immunization record or similar health information for a purpose other than health care.”

The bill was sponsored by Republican State Sens. Lois Kolkhorst, Angela Paxton, Charles Perry, and Democrat César Blanco, as well as Republican State Reps. Stephanie Klick and Angie Chen Button.

Other states have taken aim at segregation based on vaccine status. Some preceded Abbot in banning the practice outright. On April 2, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) of Florida signed an executive order banning COVID-19 vaccination passports and preventing businesses from discriminating against customers based on their COVID-19 vaccination status. On May 20, Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa signed legislation preventing both government offices and businesses that take government contracts from demanding proof of COVID-19 vaccination. On May 24, Gov. Kay Ivey (R) of Alabama signed legislation preventing government-issued COVID-19 vaccination passports and businesses from demanding them from customers.

Other governors have so far concentrated on making sure government offices do not discriminate on the grounds of vaccination status. On April 7, Gov. Brad Little (R) of Idaho signed legislation banning government offices from demanding proof of COVID-19 vaccination. On April 19, Gov. Doug Ducey (R) of Arizona signed an executive order to the same effect. On April 29, Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) also signed legislation banning government offices within the state of Indiana from “issuing or requiring” a COVID-19 passport. On May 7, Wyoming’s Gov. Mark Gordon also forbade government offices from discriminating against people for not receiving the vaccine.

Some governors have so far just banned COVID-19 passports themselves. On April 13, Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) of Montana signed an executive order banning coronavirus vaccine passports. On April 21, Gov. Kristi Noem (R) of South Dakota did the same. On May 11, Gov. Henry McMaster of South Carolina also signed an executive order banning such documents.