'We disagree with the judge’s legal reasoning and will be appealing to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals,' Gov. Ron DeSantis' office said in a statement. 'A prohibition on vaccine passports does not even implicate, let alone violate, anyone’s speech rights, and it furthers the substantial, local interest of preventing discrimination among customers based on private health information.'
Federal Judge Kathleen Williams found the state does not have a substantial interest in restricting NCLH's speech because it 'presented no evidence to demonstrate that [its] asserted interests are in response to real problems that Florida residents are actually facing. There is no evidentiary support that residents have experienced intrusions on their medical privacy or discrimination because some businesses, including cruise lines, have required COVID-19 vaccination documentation.'
Earlier attempt to have the case moved from Miami to Tampa
Florida had tried, unsuccessfully, to get the case moved from the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida, located in Miami. Judge Williams was appointed to the court by President Barack Obama.
The state wanted the case heard in the Middle District of Florida, where Tampa-based federal judge Steven Merryday had decided for Florida in its complaint against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's authority to regulate the cruise industry's handling of COVID-19. Merryday was appointed to the court by President George H.W. Bush.
The CDC had appealed to the 11th Circuit, which upheld Merryday's order that made the CDC's conditional sailing order nonbinding.