Norwegian Cruise Line asks judge to block Florida vaccine law

Norwegian Cruise Line in a Friday court hearing urged a federal judge to block Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisChicago sues police union over refusal to comply with vaccine mandate Crist says as Florida governor he would legalize marijuana, expunge criminal records Big businesses are siding against Texas in mandate fight MORE’s (R) ban on vaccine passports, moving forward with its lawsuit filed last month against the state’s surgeon general over the measure. 

Norwegian attorney Derek Shaffer during a remote hearing defended the company’s requirement for customers to provide proof of vaccination to board their ships, pointing out that Florida’s emergence as the new epicenter for COVID-19 infections further proves the company's need to protect its workers. 

“It’s scary what is happening in Florida. Florida is a hotspot,” Shaffer told U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams, according to The Associated Press. “All we’re doing is trying to protect our staff and passengers.

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“This law should be fatal on arrival,” Shaffer added, arguing that DeSantis and GOP state lawmakers pushed for the ban to “score political points,” the AP reported. 

Meanwhile, Florida state attorney Pete Patterson said that the so-called vaccine passport ban, which DeSantis signed into law in May, helps prevent businesses from discriminating against passengers who have decided not to get vaccinated. 

“You can’t discriminate against customers on the basis of their refusal to give you information,” Patterson argued Friday. “If it weren’t for this law, there would be a vaccine passport required to get on a cruise ship.”

Norwegian is requesting a temporary injunction preventing Florida from enforcing its law as the cruise line looks to set sail from Florida on Aug. 15 with one of its 28 cruise ships. 

The Miami-headquartered company said in its lawsuit filed last month in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida that “one anomalous, misguided intrusion threatens to spoil N.C.L.H.’s careful planning and force it to cancel or hobble upcoming cruises, thereby imperiling and impairing passengers’ experiences and inflicting irreparable harm of vast dimensions.” 

Norwegian said at the time that the complaint filed against Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees was “a last resort” to defend the safety of its crew and passengers, as well as its First Amendment right to free communications with customers. 

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The AP reported that Williams did not immediately rule Friday on whether to grant the temporary injunction. 

The lawsuit comes as Florida finds itself in a separate legal battle with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has sought to enforce COVID-19 health and safety requirements that cruise ships must adopt before they can set sail. 

DeSantis earlier this year filed a lawsuit against the CDC, arguing that it did not have the legal authority to impose sailing orders and health requirements on ships. 

While an appeals court last month initially sided with the CDC, the same court later vacated this decision, allowing a previous order to stand that makes the CDC rules guidelines rather than requirements.