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Hobby Lobby, States Urge Supreme Court To Review Contraceptive Coverage Case

Hobby Lobby, States Urge Supreme Court To Review Contraceptive Coverage Case

October 22, 2013 — Hobby Lobby on Monday filed a brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its case challenging the federal contraceptive coverage rules, the AP/ABC News reports (AP/ABC News, 10/22).

In the brief, Hobby Lobby agreed with the Department of Justice that the case should be decided by the Supreme Court, noting that the case presents "an excellent vehicle" for resolving whether constitutional protection of religious freedom applies to private companies. The brief continued that the issues "need to be settled now by this court" because the "conflict is likely to deepen rapidly, with the same issues pending in some 35 other cases across the country" (Bailey, The Oklahoman, 10/22).

DOJ last month asked the high court to review the case. The court is expected to take a contraceptive coverage case for the upcoming term because federal appeals courts are divided in their rulings and both sides want the justices to weigh in.

The contraceptive coverage rules, which are being implemented under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), require most employers to offer the coverage to their workers. Houses of worship are exempt from the requirement, and religiously affiliated not-for-profits are eligible for an accommodation that ensures they do not have to pay for or directly provide the coverage to their employees. Private companies such as Hobby Lobby are not eligible for an exemption or accommodation.

In July, U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton granted Hobby Lobby a preliminary injunction against the rules, arguing that the stay was justified because of "substantial" public interest involved in the case, the number of similar lawsuits and the size of the penalties the chain would have to pay for failing to comply with the mandate (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/20).

Eleven States Also Call for Supreme Court Review

Separately on Monday, California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) filed an amicus brief also urging the Supreme Court to review Hobby Lobby's case, the Lake County News reports.

Ten other states joined the brief: Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington (Lake County News, 10/21).

Harris wrote that the appeals court's decision granting a religious exemption to a business against the contraceptive coverage rules might "interfere with enforcement of other important regulations that protect public safety, civil rights, social welfare, housing, employment and public health." The brief continued, "The decision's reasoning could allow corporate owners to improperly disregard the corporate form and assert religious motivations to avoid regulatory obligations, leading to unfair market advantages and threatening the uniform enforcement of essential state regulation" (Doyle, McClatchy DC, 10/21).