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OpinionColumnistsLane Filler

Irksome inconsistency in the GOP

Rep. Lee Zeldin outside the U.S. Capitol last

Rep. Lee Zeldin outside the U.S. Capitol last month. Credit: Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla

Tests show that for the immunocompromised, COVID-19 vaccines only generate antibodies 50% of the time.

"Immunocompromised" includes chemotherapy patients, lupus, AIDS and rheumatoid arthritis sufferers, and organ transplant recipients.

So if one of those cancer sufferers owns or works in a business, or loved ones do, that business must be allowed to require vaccinations of customers and employees. They have the right to lower the chances that contact with an infected person will kill them of their staff.

But many elected officials, Republicans mostly, nationally and in New York, say businesses shouldn’t be able to require customer and employee vaccinations.

And most of the Republicans who oppose barring employees or customers for refusing to be vaccinated support businesses’ right to bar them for being gay or transgender, citing constitutional guarantees of religious freedom.

Fighting for the right to discriminate against people for their sexual preference or sense of their gender, but against the right to avoid people whose callousness could kill workers or their kids, is repugnant.

In Texas and Florida, Republican governors signed laws saying businesses in general and cruise ships in particular cannot demand vaccinations.

Cruise ships, the poster children of infection spread.

How is a cruise-ship worker with a new kidney to protect himself or herself? Quit? Die?

Masks help, but are no guarantee. Ditto distancing. But we are dropping mask and distancing requirements as vaccinations increase and infections drop. It’s absolutely time to loosen up, but doing so without giving the most vulnerable legal protection at work is a dangerous, anxiety-inducing policy.

Here on Long Island, the avatar of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' brand of conservatism is Rep. Lee Zeldin.

Serving his fourth term in the House, Zeldin is the front-runner for the GOP gubernatorial nomination he seeks.

Asked whether he believes New York should allow businesses to require vaccinations of employees or customers if they wish, Zeldin answered with an unequivocal "no."

It is, from a conservative, an extraordinary attack on the property rights of business owners.

And asked for his perspective on refusing to let businesses bar the unvaccinated while supporting their right to ban gay and transgender people, Zeldin's staff provided this statement:

"Congressman Zeldin strongly believes in protecting the individual liberties of both employees and business owners. While he has supported several bills that ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the workplace, he doesn’t believe that the government should be imposing blanket mandates that would force employees or business owners to make operational decisions that would violate their religious freedom."

The right's argument in supporting the religious freedom of business owners to bar gay and transgender customers and employees is most famously highlighted by the case of a Colorado bakery owner who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.

In that case, the United States Supreme Court handed down a (very) narrow decision supporting the baker, largely because the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was so hostile to religion in adjudicating the original complaint.

Fairness and the law, when they come to protection of religious rights, are fantastically complicated.

But the right of a business to protect workers from deadly diseases can't reasonably be less vigorously defended than the right to protect workers from having to write "Adam and Steve" on a cake rather than "Adam and Eve."

Columnist Lane Filler's opinions are his own.