By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Blocking access to goods or services based on a person’s vaccination status is akin to racism, a state senator said during the second day of the Legislature’s special session Wednesday.
Sen. Bo Biteman, R-Sheridan, made the comments while the Senate was debating Senate File 1003, sponsored by Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, R-Lingle, which would prohibit discrimination based on a person’s COVID-19 vaccination status, as well as prohibit any requirements that a person obtain the coronavirus vaccine in order to receive or access benefits, services or educational opportunities.
“What are we having right now with COVID? Second-class citizens,” he said. “I’m hearing members who are perfectly OK with that; think it’s funny to have a vaxxed bar versus an unvaxxed bar. It’s not funny to have a Black-only bar versus a whites-only bar. We’re beyond that in this country.”
The bill was approved for a second review, schedule for Thursday, despite opposition from some lawmakers who said the Legislature was improperly trying to impose its will on the state’s residents.
“I think this bill looks at one overreach that could possibly happen and then takes another overreach that I think is far more draconian to try and fix it,” Sen. Mike Gierau, D-Jackson, said.
Debate occurred during the second day of the special session legislators called themselves to chart Wyoming’s response to a coronavirus vaccination mandate proposed by the administration of President Joe Biden. Measures being considered so far include measures that would make it illegal to base employment on a person’s vaccination status and prohibiting law enforcement from enforcing vaccine or mask mandates.
Under Biden’s proposal, which has not yet taken effect, federal employees, health care workers and employees of companies with more than 100 workers would have to get the coronavirus vaccine or be tested weekly for the illness.
One proposed piece of legislation named after a Laramie teenager who was arrested following her refusal to wear a mask earlier this month died Wednesday in the Senate.
Senators voted 11-18 to reject HB1010 on Wednesday. The “Grace Smith Medical Freedom Act” would have required county and state health officers to grant a waiver from coronavirus immunization or face mask use requirements to any K-12 student who requests one. This bill was co-sponsored by Rep. Ocean Andrew, R-Laramie, Biteman.