Lawmakers discuss bill to protect those who don’t want to be vaccinated from discrimination


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As more Rhode Islanders are becoming eligible to get vaccinated, there are still plenty of people choosing not to get the shot.

Tuesday night, lawmakers debated a new bill that would prevent people from being discriminated against based on whether they choose not to get the vaccine.

Democratic Rep. Thomas Noret of Coventry introduced the bill, which would make vaccination status a protected class under the state law that currently protects people from being discriminated against based on their race, gender, or sexual orientation. It also has bipartisan support.

The bill would prevent them from being discriminated against specifically in situations like employment or trying to get a hotel room. It would also stop Gov. Dan McKee from being able to make vaccinations mandatory in a state of emergency.

This all comes as schools, including Brown University and Roger Williams University, announced that vaccines will be mandatory for students to return to in-person classes in the fall.

Vaccine hesitancy still remains even as more people become eligible, and the debate continues over whether private businesses can require employees to be vaccinated.

The discussion over the bill in the House Judiciary Committee last night got heated at times.

“If we want people to actually get the vaccine, we need to gain their trust, not force them to do it,” Rep. David Place said. “I think we need to allow that trust to build back up in this particular vaccine, and mandates are not the way you get people to trust or to gain trust in something.”

“It’s great that this bill is getting people to talk, that’s what we always need to do. But the bottom line is if you don’t get vaccinated and you get COVID-19, you can trust where you’re gonna go, and that’s as simple as that,” Rep. David Bennett said.

No decisions were made and the bill is being held for further study.

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