A Leon County circuit judge could make a ruling on the lawsuit against Florida’s vaccine passport ban as soon as next week. The lawsuit was filed by Bead Abode Inc., a Sarasota-based craft store where attorneys for the company have argued it violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“Absent the relief being sought to enjoin defendant (the state) from enforcement of this clearly unconstitutional content-based restriction on protected speech, Bead Abode would be forced to choose between its commitment to the safety of its customers and crushing penalties from enforcement of this law,” the business’ lawyer, Andrew Boyer, wrote in the lawsuit.
The state has argued against this position, saying it does not violate the First Amendment, and that Circuit Judge Layne Smith, the presiding judge, should rule against an injunction directed toward the Florida law.
Attorneys for Attorney General Ashley Moody wrote last week the First Amendment claims the company’s attorneys are making, are related to speech, and the vaccine passport ban is related to conduct.
“In other words, the provision leaves owners and patrons free to have whatever discussions they choose but ultimately requires owners to serve patrons no matter their vaccination documentation,” the state’s lawyers wrote. “An owner who asks a patron whether he or she is vaccinated (and even asks if the patron can provide proof) acts consistent with the law; a violation occurs only when the patron responds in the negative and the owner, in turn, refuses to provide services. In that way, the law regulates only conduct — the provision of services by a business — not speech.”
The attorneys for the company have cited a recent decision by a South Florida federal judge siding with Norwegian Cruise Line’s lawsuit against the vaccine passport ban. The state subsequently appealed the ruling saying that case also does not apply to the First Amendment.
“The law simply prohibits businesses from conditioning service on customers providing documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination,” the brief said. “Norwegian may still request that documentation from its customers, its customers may voluntarily provide it, and both parties are free to discuss the topic. What Norwegian may not do is deny service to customers who fail to provide that documentation.”
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Grant Holcomb is a reporter at the Florida Capital Star and The Star News Network. Follow Grant on Twitter and direct message tips.
Photo “Passport with mask and vaccinated paper” by Jernej Furman CC BY 2.0.