Supreme Court upholds Maine's COVID-19 vaccine mandate

The Supreme Court on Friday upheld Maine’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, declining to halt its enforcement with a 6-3 ruling. 

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Justices Neil M. Gorsuch, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas would have halted it. 

Maine health care workers had asked the justices to block the vaccine mandate in the state, where more than 2,000 doctors, nurses and medical technicians oppose Democratic Gov. Janet Mills’ requirement to get vaccinated by Oct. 29 or get fired. 

They say the mandate from Ms. Mills runs afoul of federal law because it does not provide them with a religious exemption. They requested that the mandate be halted while litigation over its legality moves through the courts.

In a dissent written by Justice Gorsuch, joined by Justices Alito and Thomas, he noted Maine gave workers exemptions for medical reasons but excluded exemptions for religious objectors. 

“Where many other states have adopted religious exemptions, Maine has charted a different course,” Justice Gorsuch wrote. 

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Earlier this month, Justice Stephen G. Breyer refused to grant the health care workers an injunction before the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on the matter. But after the 1st Circuit sided against the health care workers’ request, they returned to the high court.

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, though, has granted New York health care workers an injunction while their case is pending.

The split between the two appeals court could prompt the Supreme Court to eventually weigh the issue.

The court’s move on Friday marked the fourth time the high court has had to weigh in on a vaccine mandate since August. 

Before Justice Breyer refused to block the Maine mandate, Justice Amy Coney Barrett refused to grant an injunction in August to students at the University of Indiana who challenged the school’s requirement for them to get the shot.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor recently rejected a request to block the vaccine requirement for New York City public school teachers.

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