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Federal judge bucks Gov. DeSantis' effort to ban 'vaccine passports,' says cruise line can require vaccination proof

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A federal judge in Miami has ruled that Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings can require passengers to provide proof of vaccination, bucking Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis' efforts to ban "vaccine passports" in the state.

In a ruling issued Sunday, U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams granted the cruise line a preliminary injunction, temporarily blocking the state from enforcing its ban.

The judge determined that DeSantis' "vaccine passport" ban, signed into law in May, jeopardizes public health and infringes upon the cruise line's constitutional rights, Reuters reported.

She wrote in the ruling that Florida failed to "provide a valid evidentiary, factual, or legal predicate" for banning proof of vaccination requirements and argued that the ban will likely fail in court.

The law "does not prohibit businesses from subjecting unvaccinated customers — and those who decline to verify their vaccination status and are deemed unvaccinated — to restrictions, requirements, and expenses that do not apply to vaccinated patrons," Williams stated.

"In sum, if combatting discrimination were the goal, merely banning the exchange of COVID-19 vaccination documentation is an ineffective way to accomplish this objective because the statute does not directly prohibit the treating of unvaccinated persons or those who decline to verify their vaccination status by businesses and employers differently," she added.

Norwegian plans to resume operations on Aug. 15, setting sail from Miami with a fully vaccinated ship.

In a statement following the decision, Norwegian's executive vice president, Daniel Farkas, said, "We are pleased that Judge Williams saw the facts, the law and the science as we did and granted the Company's motion for preliminary injunction allowing us to operate cruises from Florida with 100% vaccinated guests and crew."

Neither DeSantis nor his lawyers responded publicly to the news before this article was published.

The governor initially sought to prohibit businesses and government agencies from discriminating against unvaccinated individuals by requiring vaccine passports with an executive order in April. Then in May, the state legislature passed a bill expanding the order.

In July, the cruise line sued, arguing that the law prevented it from complying with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that mandate at least 95% of passengers and 98% of its crew be vaccinated.

DeSantis has been an outspoken opponent of draconian restrictions put in place by government bureaucrats, specifically as it pertains to a pivotal industry in his state.

"Do you want one unelected bureaucracy to be able to have the power to indefinitely shut down a major industry in this country?" he asked during a news conference in May.

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