By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The Wyoming Senate defeated a bill on Friday that would have prohibited people from being discriminated against based on whether they have received the coronavirus vaccine.
Senate File 1003 would have prohibited using a person’s vaccination status to bar them from receiving public benefits, services or educational opportunities or from accessing areas otherwise open to the public. The bill was defeated by a vote of 13-15 in its third and final reading in the Senate.
The bill was one of three still being considered by legislators in the special session called to chart Wyoming’s response to a federal vaccine mandate proposed by the administration of President Joe Biden. The mandate would apply to federal employees, health care workers and workers at companies employing more than 100.
Rep. Charles Scott, R-Casper, spoke against the bill Friday, expressing concern about its implications for those trying to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“What I’m afraid we’re going to do with this bill, and with some of the others, is to put something into law that prevents some of the efforts to be sensible in trying to deal with what really is a deadly disease,” he said. “I think we would have been better served maybe to deal with some of these issues in our next regular budget session when we would have what the federal government is doing right in front of us and know what problems they might occur.”
The bill was killed despite arguments by supporters that the state needs to take some steps against overreach by the federal government.
Sen. Ed Cooper, R-Ten Sleep, recalled a time he was in Baltics and saw soldiers enforcing the “lack of personal freedoms” by demanding to see identification papers carried by citizens. SF1003, Cooper said, was designed to prevent such developments in Wyoming.
“It is about passports, it’s about personal freedoms and it’s about where this country is headed if we don’t stop,” Cooper said. “We have to stand up at some point and draw that line in the sand.”
Sen. Tim Salazar, R-Riverton, said the situation with the vaccine mandate came down to a person choosing between a “forced vaccination” or putting food on the table, noting that many of his constituents have called to tell them they would be out of a job Monday due to their refusal to get a COVID vaccine.
Banner Health, which runs several health care facilities in Wyoming, has ordered its employees to get the vaccine by Nov. 1 in order to keep their jobs.
While Salazar expressed some concern about the bill, he voted in support of it.
Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, pointed out that there is a big difference between discriminating against someone for their sex, religion or race compared to their vaccination status.
“We’ve morally agreed that we shouldn’t discriminate on the basis of color or race, we’ve come to that agreement there is not a downside,” he said. “There very much is a downside with respect to vaccination status.”