- New decree from governor allows discrimination based on vaccinations
- ‘Vaccinated only’ seating sections possible for churches, spectator events
- Ericksen bill bans discrimination in schools, travel, public accommodations
- Government coercion inappropriate, Ericksen says – should be individual choice
OLYMPIA – A new COVID decree from Gov. Jay Inslee mandating “vaccinated only” sections at public gatherings in return for higher crowd capacity makes vaccination discrimination an official state policy, and Sen. Doug Ericksen says it makes a ban on the practice imperative.
Ericksen, R-Ferndale, introduced legislation during the just-finished 2021 legislative session that would prevent discrimination based on vaccination status in schools, travel and places of public accommodation.
“Whether you get a vaccination is one of the most personal decisions you can make,” Ericksen said. “This isn’t a matter of being pro-vaccine or anti-vaccine. We should respect the right of people to make decisions for themselves. Government has no business trying to coerce people by forcing third parties to check vaccination status at the door, and possibly turning away those who have not gotten shots.”
Under new guidelines announced by the governor Monday, churches and faith organizations would be required to offer “vaccinated only” seating sections in order to increase crowd size to 50 percent of facility capacity.
Other new rules apply to public gatherings, including sporting events and graduation ceremonies. Outdoor facilities will be limited to 9,000 non-vaccinated guests, but can increase attendance to 50 percent or 22,000 people, whichever is lower, if they institute vaccinated-only seating.
Seating for non-vaccinated guests at indoor facilities would be sharply limited to 200 or 300 people during Phase 2 of the state’s lockdown plan, depending on the size of the venue, but adding “vaccinated only” sections would allow them to accommodate up to 2,000 people.
“When I introduced this bill at the start of session, people said this type of discrimination would never happen,” Ericksen said. “Now it’s here. Never in the history of our country have we permitted discrimination against our own citizens based on vaccination status. By overstepping in this way, the governor is saying that some of us should be treated as second-class citizens, and some deserve more rights than others.”
Ericksen’s bill, SB 5144, did not receive a hearing during the 2021 legislative session, but could be revived. Ericksen said that if lawmakers are called back to Olympia for a special legislative session, the measure should receive a top priority.