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Gianforte promises to fight federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate

September 9, 2021 GMT

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte on Thursday said a new federal coronavirus vaccination mandate that could affect as many as 100 million Americans is “unlawful and un-American.”

The Republican said in a Tweet that he is “committed to protecting Montanans’ freedoms and liberties against this gross federal overreach.”

Montana is the only state in the U.S. with a law that makes it illegal for private employers to require vaccines as a condition for employment. That law appears to clash with parts of the mandate announced by President Joe Biden on Thursday, telling all private businesses with 100 or more employees to require workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or get tested weekly for the respiratory virus. The requirement carries penalties for companies of $14,000 per violation.

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The Montana law states that requiring vaccines is “discrimination” in violation of the state’s human rights laws. It was passed earlier this year by the Republican-dominated state Legislature despite pushback from the state’s hospital association and other medical groups who are now straining under the weight of a new surge in COVID-19 infections.

A Montana Hospital Association spokesperson said in an email on Thursday that their legal counsel will evaluate the new requirement.

“This appears to present a conflict between federal and state law that we will need to clarify and resolve,” said Katy Peterson, vice president of the association.