Rep. Berman wants to add vaccination status to Michigan civil rights law

By: - February 5, 2022 5:52 am

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A bill seeking to add vaccination status to the state’s civil rights statute has been introduced by a lawmaker seeking to become Michigan’s next attorney general.

State Rep. Ryan Berman (R-Commerce Twp.) is seeking the GOP nomination to challenge Attorney General Dana Nessel, who is running for reelection this November. On Tuesday, he introduced House Bill 5710, which adds medical condition and vaccination status to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA) as just the latest move by Republican lawmakers who have opposed the COVID-19 vaccine and mandates. Berman did not return a request for comment.

Rep. Ryan Berman | House GOP photo

Passed in 1976, the statute currently prohibits discrimination in Michigan based on “religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, or marital status” in employment, housing, education, and access to public accommodations.

There have been bipartisan attempts in recent years to add sexual orientation and gender identity to ELCRA, but they have failed to gain traction in the GOP-controlled Legislature. A constitutional amendment failed to get on the 2022 ballot.

John Johnson Jr., director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, told the Michigan Advance that he believes the legislation is unnecessary, as medical conditions are already covered under the state’s Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act. 

“This vaccine status is really overly broad, and really shouldn’t be addressed in the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act at all,” he said on Friday. “And then, of course, it would include all types of vaccinations, not just the one that they’re trying to get to, which is COVID.” 

Berman’s bill, which was co-sponsored by Republican Reps. Bob Bezotte of Howell, Beau LaFave of Iron Mountain and Doug Wozniak of Shelby Township, follows a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month that invalidated a Biden administration policy that would have required employers with 100 or more workers to ensure they were vaccinated for COVID-19 or be tested weekly. The high court did, however, uphold the administration’s mandate for health care workers.

It also comes as the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) continues to urge Michiganders to get vaccinated as soon as possible. 

“We now have two fully FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines that have saved millions of lives throughout the pandemic,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at DHHS. “For Michiganders who have been waiting for this approval, now is the time to get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine and join the nearly 6.5 million Michigan residents who have already received their first dose. The vaccine remains our best defense against the virus as we continue to face omicron and any future variants.”

Michigan’s current rate of those who have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, according to DHHS, is 65.3%. Nationally, the rate is 75.5%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Jon King
Jon King

Jon King has been a journalist for more than 35 years. He is the Past President of the Michigan Associated Press Media Editors Association and has been recognized for excellence numerous times, most recently in 2021 with the Best Investigative Story by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Cleary University. Jon and his family live in Howell, where he also serves on the Board of Directors for the Livingston Diversity Council.