Members of the Libertarian Party of Los Angeles County have gotten permission to gather signatures to attempt to overturn a city ordinance that forces citizens to show proof of vaccination in order to enter many local private commercial venues.
Last October, the Los Angeles City Council voted to implement an ordinance that would require citizens to prove they're vaccinated to dine inside restaurants, hang out in bars, work out at gyms, get haircuts, or otherwise spend time at many indoor venues. The burden of enforcing the mandate actually fell on the businesses, who were obligated to demand citizens cooperate or face fines that would eventually reach $5,000 per violation.
Now, a group of Libertarian Party of Los Angeles County members have organized under the banner of "Medical Freedom LA" and are attempting to overturn the mandate. The Los Angeles City Clerk gave clearance to the group on Thursday to circulate the repeal petition. The group has 120 days to collect signatures of close to 65,000 registered voters in L.A. to force a vote.
"We believe you own your body, and that you have the right to decide what goes into your body," the site promoting the petition states. "We don't believe that government should punish people for exercising their natural rights, or force business owners to exclude people based on their vaccination status. We believe people have a right to medical privacy."
"We just think the vaccination mandate is a gross violation of our constitutional rights and our bodily autonomy," Angela McArdle, chair of the Libertarian Party of Los Angeles County, tells Reason. She says she has heard support for the petition across the political spectrum. Some don't want to be vaccinated or have had bad medical reactions to vaccinations. Others are voluntarily vaccinated but oppose the city forcing mandates and vaccination checks on citizens and businesses.
L.A. residents have been living under heavy COVID restrictions throughout the pandemic. Indoor masking mandates were lifted briefly in the summer of 2021, only to be restored when the delta variant caused infection rates to spike in the fall. They currently remain in place. The county announced Thursday that masking rules might be eased soon if infection numbers continue to drop.
At the time the city instituted the vaccination mandates, nearly 70 percent of L.A.County residents had been fully vaccinated. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said when he was supporting the vaccination mandate that the ordinance would encourage more people to get their shots in order to comply.
Four months later, though, the total percentage of people vaccinated in L.A. County is nearly unchanged. Nearly 70 percent of L.A. County residents are fully vaccinated, just as in October. L.A. has done very well with getting high-risk residents vaccinated (90 percent of those over 65 have been fully vaccinated), but the data doesn't show what Garcetti hoped would happen. The mandate has not, in fact, convinced holdouts to get their shots.
But it has forced service employees to demand that people who have gotten their vaccines provide documentation in order to participate in any number of common activities. It has made daily interactions more burdensome without actually achieving the goals used to justify the ordinance.
McArdle says the petition was submitted to the city in November to start the process of getting it to a public vote. Despite the brevity of the petition—it simply repeals the mandate ordinance and replaces it with nothing—she says she had to make five revisions to finally get clearance to go gather signatures. They plan to get started on Monday.
McArdle predicts that it will take five months at least for the process to play out before citizens can vote, assuming they get enough signatures. By the summer, the city might already be thinking about repealing the ordinance. McArdle would be fine with that outcome as well.
"I think filing the petition might push the City Council to save face and set it aside, and I'm fine with that," McArdle tells Reason. "It's not like I need to get a win on this. I just need things to be right."