by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) – In a major blow to Florida’s law banning “vaccine passports,” a US federal judge issued a preliminary ruling Sunday that Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. is entitled to demand passengers show proof of COVID-19 vaccination before they board a ship, Voice of America (VOA) reports.
As part of an overall stand against COVID-19 restrictions, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the Florida law against ‘vaccine passports’ in May, arguing that the legislation prevents discrimination, and protects privacy by prohibiting businesses, schools or governments from demanding proof of vaccination, VOA reports.
According to the state, the cruise company could have opted for applying other COVID-19 protocols like indoor masking, VOA said. Violations of the law would have resulted in fines of $5000 per passenger, costing the company millions of dollars per cruise. The Florida law has come into effect as companies respond to the rapid spread of the Delta variant and as the state itself has seen a sharp rise in cases and a record number of hospitalizations.
Issuing a preliminary ruling on Sunday, District Judge Kathleen Williams in Miami said the Florida legislation poses a risk to public health and violates the Norwegian company’s First Amendment constitutional right to interact with customers, VOA reports. Williams said the law does not prevent discrimination because the company would have had to segregate and mask unvaccinated passengers. The judge went on to give the company permission to proceed with its plan to start cruises from Miami on August 15.
“We are pleased that Judge Williams saw the facts, the law and the science as we did and granted the Company’s motion for a preliminary injunction allowing us to operate cruises from Florida with 100% vaccinated guests and crew,” the company’s executive vice president Daniel S. Farkas said in a statement.
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