Judge sides with cruise line against Florida’s vaccine passport ban

Florida lawmaker and GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis took action earlier this year with a law prohibiting businesses in the state from requiring so-called “vaccine passports” as a condition for service.

That law was challenged in court by Norwegian Cruise Lines, however, which requires proof of vaccination for all passengers and crew. Now that company has received a temporary victory.

“Content-based restriction”

According to the Daily Caller, U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams handed down a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the Florida law, declaring it an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment and a risk to public health.

In a 59-page decision issued on Sunday, Williams granted the motion sought by the cruise line for an injunction against the law being enforced at Florida ports.

The judge generally accepted the plaintiff’s argument that the law represented a violation of the First Amendment since it was a “content-based restriction” on the company’s free speech and not, as the state maintained, merely an economic regulation.

Furthermore, Williams sided with the plaintiff in determining that the state-level regulation impacted interstate and international commerce, thus violating the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Throughout her ruling, the judge repeatedly dismissed counterarguments by the state, including the alleged discrimination against unvaccinated individuals.

“To provide the safest possible cruise experience”

Of course, Norwegian Cruise Lines was quick to celebrate the ruling in its favor.

“The health and safety of our guests, crew and the communities we visit is our number one priority, today, tomorrow, and forever,” asserted Frank Del Rio, the company’s president and CEO. “It’s not a slogan or a tagline, we fiercely mean it and our commitment to these principles is demonstrated by the lengths our Company has gone through to provide the safest possible cruise experience from Florida.”

He went on to insist that his company wants “nothing more than to sail from Miami, the Cruise Capital of the World, and from other fabulous Florida ports,” expressing hope that the recent court ruling will be a step in the right direction.

DeSantis spokesperson Christina Pushaw rejected the judge’s determination and announced a forthcoming appeal.

“A prohibition on vaccine passports does not even implicate, let alone violate, anyone’s speech rights, and it furthers the substantial, local interest of preventing discrimination among customers based on private health information.”

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