January 30, 2014 — Democratic attorneys general from 15 states and the District of Columbia on Wednesday filed an amicus brief siding with the government in a Supreme Court case involving two businesses that oppose the federal contraceptive coverage rules, the Washington Times reports (Howell, Washington Times, 1/29).
The rules, which are being implemented under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), require most for-profit, private businesses to offer contraceptive coverage in their employer-sponsored health plans.
In the case before the high court, the arts-and-crafts retail chain Hobby Lobby and cabinet maker Conestoga Wood Specialties argue that the requirement goes against their owners' personal religious beliefs and violates the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (PL 103-141), which "protects a person's exercise of religion." The court also will consider whether the First Amendment's free exercise clause may apply to for-profit businesses.
Oral arguments are scheduled for March 25 (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/29).
Amicus Brief Details
The brief was filed by attorneys general from California, Connecticut, D.C., Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
The brief argues that invalidating the rules would set a risky precedent that might allow businesses to not comply with other laws they oppose.
The attorneys general wrote, "The fundamental point of organizing a business in corporate form is to separate the legal identity of the business from that of its shareholders or managers." Because of the separation, they argued, "[i]nterpreting RFRA to allow a for-profit business corporation to assert religious free-exercise rights based on the personal beliefs of some group of individual shareholders or managers would be a startling departure from that norm."
They added that siding with the businesses would also undercut "effective enforcement of important health care, antidiscrimination, and other protections for state residents under federal and state laws," noting that the Obama administration devised the rules to promote public health (Washington Times, 1/29).