Ohio legislation currently under discussion in the state's House of Representatives would prohibit both public and private institutions—including businesses and schools—from denying employment or service to unvaccinated people.
The Vaccine Choice and Anti-Discrimination Act was introduced in early May, and 665 individuals in the last month have testified in favor of the bill. This included the viral testimony by Sherri Tenpenny, a doctor who claimed the vaccine has made some people magnetic. More than 50 business, health, and hospital groups signed a letter in opposition to the bill.
The bill says that "no person, public official or employee, public agency, state agency, political subdivision, school, child day-care center, nursing home, residential care facility, health care provider, insurer, institution, or employer" can mandate that anyone, whether it be an employee, student, resident, or customer, get a vaccine.
In the name of anti-discrimination, it also says that no such institution can segregate people or deny service based on someone's vaccination status, or even provide some kind of privilege to those who do get vaccinated. Not only would this mean that schools could not require students to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to attend, it would make vaccine promotions—like Krispy Kreme's offer of free donuts—illegal.
"I believe in vaccines and scientific research," said State Rep. Jennifer Gross (R–West Chester) in her sponsor testimony. "I also recognize that vaccination is a personal choice and that, for a variety of reasons, not all Ohioans can or want to receive vaccines. I believe that protecting the freedom of all Ohioans is our role as legislators. We need to protect Ohioans from forced vaccination whether it comes from the government, school, an employer, or even a local retailer."
While all this is done in the name of freedom and personal choice, there are compelling reasons why such legislation should be concerning to libertarians.
One issue, noted by a number of Reason's own staff, is that such actions undermine the freedom of employers and institutions to make their own decisions regarding their businesses. Although Gross says that "protecting the freedom of all Ohioans" is her job, that freedom doesn't seem to extend to an immunocompromised Ohioan who wants the employees of her small business to be vaccinated. Or the Shake Shack employees who want to offer people free crinkle-cut fries to encourage them to get vaccinated.
Gross also says that she wants to protect Ohioans from "forced vaccination" by the government or by a private school, employer, and local retailer. But there is a big difference between vaccination being required by the government and vaccination being required by a private business: the ability to opt out by taking your business elsewhere.
If the cruise I go on every year starts requiring everyone to be vaccinated, I can choose to not give that cruise my business and go to a vaccine-free cruise instead. If the government requires I get vaccinated, I have no choice but to comply or be punished.
By forcing employers, schools, and businesses to not require vaccines, the Ohio Legislature wouldn't be ensuring the freedom of its citizens, it would be impeding it.
If people in Ohio don't want to get vaccinated, then they should start their own schools and businesses that don't require vaccines. But they should keep the force of government out of it.