“We believe Florida’s prohibition is on the wrong side of federal law, public health, science and is not in the best interest of the welfare of our guests, crew, and the communities we visit, therefore, we have reluctantly turned to the courts for relief,” Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) Holdings said in a statement.
The agency, which is set to resume sailing from Florida ports in mid-August, announced plans earlier this year they will require proof-of-vaccination documentation among ship staff and patrons.
In the suit, the company said that the state’s ban on such passport-style systems prevents them from resuming the market in “the safest way possible” and that pursuing a lawsuit was a “last resort.”
The complaint argues that the Sunshine State’s prohibition of COVID-19 vaccine passports violates the companies’ First Amendment and contradicts a sailing rule set out by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which requires 95 percent of passengers and crew to be vaccinated.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis codified the prohibition of vaccine passports by signing Senate Bill 2006 into law on May 3. He initiated the ban through an executive order in August.
The Miami-based company soon after pushed back against the executive order, saying the agency may avoid ports in the Sunshine State because of the new law.
NCL President and Chief Executive Officer Frank J. Del Rio said during a press briefing in May after the announcement of the new measure that all cruise companies want to operate in Florida because the market is “lucrative” and hoped the disputes over the COVID-19 vaccine passport ban can be solved.
“Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we have been unable to reach a reasonable and mutually agreeable solution with the State of Florida that would allow us to require documentation confirming guests’ vaccination status prior to boarding,” the NCL parent company said as they announced the lawsuit.
DeSantis said after cruise companies sought an exemption from the policy by putting pressure on moving their business from the state that Florida will not rescind the ban.
Vaccine passports have been criticized by DeSantis, other Republicans, and civil liberties groups for potentially creating a two-tiered society consisting of vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Another concern, raised by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and pro-privacy groups, highlights that health agencies and private companies would be able to more easily gain access to the health records of U.S. citizens, potentially violating the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
Christina Pushaw, the press secretary of DeSantis, called the lawsuit in a statement to the Washington Examiner “meritless” and accused the company of pursuing “widespread discrimination.”
“In its upcoming sailings Norwegian Cruise Line has made the disappointing and unlawful choice to join the CDC in discriminating against children and other individuals who cannot be vaccinated or who have opted not to be vaccinated for reasons of health, religion, or conscience,” Pushaw said. “Every other industry in Florida has safely reopened while still respecting the right of every Floridian to make their own medical choice when it comes to vaccinations. At present, approximately 60% of eligible Floridians have been vaccinated against COVID-19, which means Norwegian is purposefully excluding 40% of Florida’s residents from the people it is willing to serve.”
“Florida already fought and won its case so that Norwegian and all other cruise lines can invite and serve all Americans on its vessels. But apparently Norwegian prefers the shackles of the CDC to the freedom offered by Florida,” she added. “This Administration will not tolerate such widespread discrimination. Therefore, Norwegian faces a $5,000 fine from whom they demand a vaccination status.”
DeSantis said while speaking in Ormond Beach in May that “the problem is the CDC” and not Florida—describing the federal health agency’s requirements as illogical.
From NTD News