- June 30, 2014
Today the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in two cases, collectively known as the Hobby Lobby case, in which the Justices were asked to decide whether requiring a corporation to provide insurance coverage that includes contraception under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a “substantial burden” on the corporation, and violates Christian business owners’ religious freedom rights. The Court ruled that closely held for-profit corporations are exempt from complying with the ACA contraception mandate based on religious belief.
The Court expressly attempted to limit the implications of this ruling by explaining, "The principled dissent raises the possibility that discrimination in hiring, for example on the basis of race, might be cloaked as religious practice to escape legal sanction. Our decision today provides no such shield."
"Religious groups have a long-established first amendment ability to operate according to their own beliefs," said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. "Instead of protecting religious liberty, this ruling gives license for businesses to use their personal beliefs as a reason to deny people access to basic, yet crucial medical services."
HRC remains hopeful that the Court’s limitation in this case will be extended to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. We will remain vigilant in the event business owners attempt to use this decision to justify other forms of discrimination, including against LGBT people.
In the immediate aftermath, some members of the LGBT community will feel the effects of this decision; countless lesbian and bisexual women as well as some transgender men rely on contraception.
HRC will continue to work closely with our partners in the women’s and reproductive health movements, as well as other LGBT groups, as this issue continues to be debated.