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Appeals court sides with Utah, other states on Biden COVID-19 vaccine order

Posted at 5:30 PM, Nov 12, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY — The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has sided with Utah and other states seeking to block the Biden administration's efforts to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine or regular testing on businesses with more than 100 employees.

In a ruling handed down Friday night, the Louisiana-based Court granted a stay on any enforcement of the rule pending further litigation. It also ordered the Occupational Safety and Health Administration take no steps to enforce the mandate until further court order. Utah, Texas, South Carolina and Mississippi filed a petition challenging the mandate.

"It is clear that a denial of the petitioners’ proposed stay would do them irreparable harm. For one, the Mandate threatens to substantially burden the liberty interests of reluctant individual recipients put to a choice between their job(s) and their jab(s)," Judge Kurt Engelhardt wrote.

Utah's Republican political leaders were pleased with the ruling in comments to FOX 13 on Friday night. Governor Spencer Cox has insisted the vaccine or testing mandate was unconstitutional.

"We're encouraged by the court’s recognition that the OSHA rule exceeds their authority with this mandate. This is a win for Utahns," the governor said in a statement.

READ: Utah records 22 new COVID-19 deaths, 3,842 additional cases Friday

"I'm grateful the federal court reaffirmed the hold on the enforcement of the egregious overreaching vaccine mandates by the Biden administration. It is encouraging the court 'believe there are grave statutory unconstitutional issues with the mandate,'" said Senate President J. Stuart Adams, R-Layton. "Personal health decisions should not be forced on individuals or businesses. Utah will continue to fight to keep our personal and health freedoms."

The ruling would not impact private businesses that have implemented vaccine mandates. However, in Utah, the legislature just passed a bill blocking private businesses from firing employees who claim religious, personal or medical exemptions. Instead, they can be "reassigned" within a company. Under a watered-down version of the bill that passed in special session this week, employees can still be fired for refusing the vaccine if their role cannot be reassigned to accommodate them.

While they have opposed vaccine mandates by government, Utah's Republican political leaders have tried to walk a fine line in offering support to private businesses who opt to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine on their own.

"I am beyond thrilled with the Fifth Circuit Court’s decision to stand with states aiming to block the Biden Administration’s testing and vaccine mandate. It is clear that the Federal Government has overstepped their bounds and we remain committed to standing up against this flagrant abuse of power," House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, said in a statement.

Read the 5th Circuit Court's opinion here: