Lambda Legal Urges U.S. Supreme Court to Reject Religious Exemption for For-Profit Companies
(Washington, January 28, 2014) - Lambda Legal today filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reject arguments made by for-profit companies that they should be allowed to block their employees' access to insurance coverage for contraception required by the Affordable Care Act because the companies' owners claim birth control violates their religious beliefs.
"The Supreme Court has never before allowed commercial businesses to ignore regulations that protect workers based on the religious beliefs of a corporation's owners,” said Jennifer C. Pizer, Lambda Legal Senior Counsel and Director, Law and Policy Project. "What these for-profit companies are seeking would open the floodgates of religion-based discrimination targeting LGBT individuals, people living with HIV and other vulnerable populations, denying them equal compensation, health care access, and other equitable treatment in commercial interactions. In our multicultural society, respect for religious pluralism is essential. We have laws and regulations to ensure fairness and safety for owners, workers, and consumers, without allowing some to impose their religious views on others."
Lambda Legal submitted the amicus brief in two cases now before the Supreme Court challenging the Affordable Care Act's requirement that FDA-approved contraception be among the basic preventive health care services included in insurance coverage for employees, Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialities Corporation v. Sebelius. In the Hobby Lobby case, the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby's claim for an exemption from the ACA's contraception coverage rule, while in Conestoga, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals denied Conestoga's similar claim.
"For-profit corporations build, sell, advertise, employ workers, and limit their owners' legal liability. They don't pray. If business owners want the legal protection that comes from incorporating, they must honor the separation between themselves and their companies," Pizer added. "This means large for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Products should follow the same rules as other companies that sell products to the general public and should not be free to impose their owners' religious views on their employees. Certainly, business owners should not be able to selectively block insurance coverage in order to interfere with their employees' private decisions about family planning and other medical treatment."
Joining Lambda Legal on its amicus brief are: GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality (GLMA) and Pride at Work-AFL CIO. More information about Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialities Corporation v. Sebelius and Lambda Legal's work focused on the Affordable Care Act and religious freedom is available here: http://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/sebelius_us_201410128_amicus-lambda-legal
The amicus brief was authored by Lambda Legal attorneys Thomas W. Ude, Jr., Counsel; Jennifer C. Pizer, Senior Counsel and Director, Law and Policy Project; Camilla B. Taylor, Counsel and Marriage Project Director; and Joshua J. Johnson, Attorney Fellow.