An Oregon state senator has introduced civil rights legislation to ban vaccine passports in the state.
SB 872 would prohibit public and private entities from conditioning service or employment opportunities based on vaccination status or the possession of a vaccine credential. The anti-discrimination legislation would also ban the government from preventing Oregonians from exercising First Amendment rights because of COVID-19 risks.
“The governor’s vaccine passport scheme is an extreme invasion of Oregonians’ privacy,” said Sen. Kim Thatcher, the bill's author. “No Oregonian should have to divulge medical information to participate in everyday life. This bill is about making clear Oregonians’ rights, which have been railroaded by the Governor during the pandemic. One person cannot and should not have this much power over Oregonians’ lives and livelihoods.”
Civil rights and business and labor groups argue that the move by Gov. Kate Brown to implement vaccine passports, contrary to guidance from the White House and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is alarming.
A recent survey conducted by the local Chamber of Commerce in Medford found that 93% of businesses do not want to condition maskless service on asking customers for medical information. The ACLU has said that vaccine passports threaten to exacerbate racial disparities and harm the civil liberties of all.
“Our local businesses have gone through a lot this year,” said Thatcher, R-Keizer. “The last thing we should be doing is making them play mask and vaccine cop. They have much more important things to do, like getting back to normal so Oregonians can earn a living.”
Vaccination rate rising
The legislation comes as Oregon approaches a 70% vaccination rate, the threshold the governor has set to “fully reopen the economy." According to the New York Times, Oregon is one of 3 states in the nation that have refused to set a date for reopening. Oregon’s vaccine passport plan runs contrary to the approaches taken by California and Washington, which have both opted against the measure, Thatcher notes.
Senate Bill 872 is waiting to be first read, after which it will be referred to a committee by the Senate President.