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Matt Gatez takes another stand against vaccine passport mandates

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., listens during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021.
J. Scott Applewhite
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., listens during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz on Wednesday introduced a billto ban the vaccine passport mandate in Washington, D.C.

This comes just days after the Panhandle-area congressman called out this weekend's 30A Songwriters Festival in Santa Rosa Beach for what he called the implementation of illegal vaccine passports.

On Monday, Gaetz sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis asking for his “immediate attention” about the festival which he alleged was requiring all patrons to show full proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID test within 72 hours immediately prior to the festival.

“Regrettably, I write to inform you that within my congressional district there appears to be a blatant violation ofExecutive Order 21-81 ‘Prohibiting Vaccine Passports,’” Gaetz wrote in the letter.

The festival is sponsored in part by Visit South Walton, the area’s tourist development council. Gaetz asked the governor to inform Visit South Walton of the ramifications if they continue to fund the festival “under these unlawful conditions.”

Russell Carter, the festival’s co-producer responded Tuesday, saying the festival has been co-produced by the nonprofit Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County every January for the past 13 years generating more than $8 million in revenue.

Carter said Gaetz’s letter misrepresented the festival’s COVID protocols, according to local news site Get the Coast.

“Rep. Gaetz states incorrectly that there is a Vaccine Passport requirement,” said Carter. “This is simply untrue. The Governor’s office has previously reviewed the language we used for our COVID policy and stated publicly and unequivocally that it is acceptable.”

Carter also noted that Gaetz has been a past patron at the festival "at least twice in recent years."

On the festival website, it states that “all Festival Patrons MUST present a negative COVID test (within the previous 72 hours), along with a valid government-issued photo ID, to receive a 30A SONGWRITERS FESTIVAL wristband. (Note: Festival Patrons may choose to present proof of full vaccination in lieu of a negative test).”

Festival performers Granville Automatic replied to Gaetz’ tweet with his open letter saying they “strongly support” the festival’s policy.

Last summer, DeSantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw clarified that Senate Bill 2006, which was signed by the governor in May, only prohibits businesses from requiring proof of vaccination from customers as a condition of entry or service.

“People who want to show proof of vaccination instead of a COVID test are free to do that,” she said last year. “It just cannot be compelled.”

Gaetz has apparently doubled down on his stance against vaccine passports Wednesday when he introduced the one-page bill which is co-sponsored by more than a dozen members in Congress, including Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has traveled with Gaetz for joint rallies around the country.

"This bill serves as a direct response to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser's unconstitutional order for businesses and other establishments to enforce proof of vaccination for entry beginning Jan. 15, 2022," Gaetz said in the news release announcing the bill.

Jennie joined WUWF in 2018 as digital content producer and reporter.