Illinois House Republican wants to make discrimination over COVID-19 vaccines illegal
SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - A downstate Republican lawmaker wants to make it illegal to discriminate against people if they choose to not get a COVID-19 vaccine. Rep. Adam Niemerg (R-Teutopolis) said public health should not be an excuse to take away someone’s freedoms and liberties.
COVID-19 response will continue to be a major focus for Illinois lawmakers as they return to Springfield next month. Many Democrats would like to see more people vaccinated against COVID-19. However, Niemerg believes government officials have no right to make decisions when it comes down to vaccines.
Niemerg claims state leaders have used the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to “strip away rights” guaranteed in the United States constitution. He says his legislation is necessary to restore the right of conscience for Illinoisans.
Niemerg specifically noted that nurses on the frontlines throughout the pandemic should not have to decide between getting vaccinated or putting food on the table. This proposal would also allow anyone discriminated against to file lawsuits and receive no less than $2,500 for each violation.
“This is about freedom in the United States of America and freedom in the state of Illinois,” Niemerg said. “This has nothing to do with my political agenda or my future as a state representative. This is everything to do with the rights of our citizens.”
His plan means adults could also use this argument on behalf of minors or wards in their care. Niemerg says other states and countries allow people to have a choice and Illinois should move in that direction.
“In the state of Illinois, it’s all about vaccination status. It’s all about pushing a vaccine and that is unacceptable,” Niemerg said. “We need to have that opportunity to talk with our doctors and talk with our families and make that decision ourselves, not through government edict.”
Although, the vast majority of Illinoisans are vaccinated. In fact, as of Tuesday, 79.3% of Illinoisans 12 and older have received at least one shot. 72% are fully vaccinated.
Niemerg says many states don’t need this type of legislation because they have Republican leadership that allows people to make the vaccination decision on their own. Still, he noted that Republicans in other Democratic-controlled states are trying to pass similar bills.
Niemerg filed his “Freedom Act” on November 30 and gained support from 14 other House Republicans. Still, he openly admitted Tuesday that this bill is a long shot with a Democratic supermajority in both chambers. It likely won’t be heard in a committee, though Niemerg says he will fight for that to happen.
Meanwhile, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported Tuesday that 3,029 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 complications. Of those, 610 people are currently in intensive care units and 272 are on ventilators.
Illinois also reported 78 deaths from COVID-19 complications on Tuesday. That is the highest single-day death toll since February 11, 2021.
“We should take steps to promote public health, but we must do so in the context of our rights as Americans,” Niemerg said.
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