Hundreds rally at Capitol in support of banning vaccine mandates

Anti-vaccine mandate protesters and supporters of the California recall election rally outside the front doors of the Los Angeles Unified School District, LAUSD headquarters in Los Angeles Thursday Sept. 9, 2021. The Los Angeles board of education voted Thursday to require students 12 and older to be vaccinated against the coronavirus to attend in-person classes in the nation's second-largest school district. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes) (Damian Dovarganes, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

TALLAHASSEE – Hundreds of Floridians opposing vaccine mandates were at the State Capitol Tuesday to show their support for the Legislature’s special session.

Many shared personal stories of how their vaccination status cost them their job.

Opponents of vaccine mandates filled halls of the Capitol and the seats of committee rooms on the second day of the special session.

Some of them, like Nikki Murphy, were healthcare workers.

“We do not consent. There are thousands of health care workers that are prepared to walk away,” said Murphy.

Others, like Stephen Davis, firefighters.

“This mandate, this is what ultimately has terminated my job,” said Davis.

They came to support the legislature’s proposed ban on vaccine mandates.

Private employers would have to provide exemptions for those with natural immunity or who have religious or medical reasons for not taking the vaccine.

Fines range between ten and $50,000.

“These mandates are acting as if this vaccine ends this pandemic. And I also want to go on record saying clearly it doesn’t,” said Senate sponsor Danny Burgess.

Outside, Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nunez addressed a crowd of hundreds.

“People should be empowered. People, not the government, to make their own decisions,” said Nunez.

And although those in the crowd generally support the Legislature’s proposal, some we spoke to said they believe it doesn’t go far enough.

Lou Marin, National Director of the Florida Republican Assembly, wants a blanket ban on mandates, not just exemptions.

“There should be no mandates regardless,” said Marin.

The legislation does include a blanket prohibition on public sector vaccine mandates.

It also prohibits mask and vaccine mandates for students in public schools.

For Davis, knowing the legislation will help prevent others from losing their job over the vaccine is good enough for now.

“There’s always room for improvement and that’s something we can get into play later on,” said Davis.

At the speed the Legislature has moved during the special session, changes to the legislation aren’t likely at this point.

We’re told lawmakers will likely gavel out on Wednesday.