Lawmakers in Tennessee have introduced a new bill to prevent businesses from discriminating against customers who are not wearing masks, saying that businesses cannot enforce public policy guidelines or require proof of vaccination in order to receive services.
The Medical Non-Discrimination Business and Consumer Act makes such discrimination a violation of standard business regulations and medical privacy.
"For consumers, this bill would serve to make it unlawful for a business of public accommodation (grocery stores, restaurants, movie theaters, gyms, and the like) to discriminate against a consumer on a medical basis," says the bill. "Functionally, this means that a business of public accommodation could not make a policy requiring the wearing of a mask or the use of any medical device, including treatment such as immunizations, in order to purchase goods and/or services from businesses here in Tennessee.
The bill also protects businesses and employees from liability resulting from accommodating customers, meaning they could not be prosecuted or fined by authorities seeking to threaten them into following public policy guidelines.
The bill also specifies that business owners, despite their property rights, do not "have a right or a duty to regulate the healthcare of their consumers," and that "bodily autonomy and medical freedom" supersedes the rights of private property when such property is used for "public accommodation."
In practical terms, this means that businesses such as grocery stores, movie theaters, resorts, hotels, and gyms cannot require masks or proof of vaccination in order for someone to receive goods and services.
The lawmakers lastly cite Shelby County, Tennessee, as an example of where government authorities are directing business owners to enforce policies, which they say is "not only unlawful, but... incredibly dangerous."
"Before COVID, we would have called this type of activity, vigilantism," says the bill. "Law enforcement is and should be reserved for law enforcement agencies, not the public. This bill would correct this very dangerous precedent being set by some county officials in Tennessee."
The bill draws on the precedence of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which says that no one can be discriminated against based on disability or medical condition – even if contagious with a disease – with a focus on such places of public accommodation.