Zubik v. Burwell


Lambda Legal filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in Zubik v. Burwell and six related cases urging the Court to reject arguments made by religiously affiliated nonprofit organizations who argue that it burdens their religious beliefs simply to notify the federal government that they are opting out of providing their employees insurance coverage for contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The rule challenged in these seven cases accommodates certain religiously affiliated social services, medical, educational, and other institutions that employ people of diverse faiths and serve the general public—often with public funding—by allowing them to notify the Department of Health and Human Services of their objection to providing insurance for contraception either by using a simple form or through an alternate process. Doing so relieves the employer of all responsibility for that coverage, which instead is provided by the health insurance issuer or a third party administrator and then reimbursed by the government. Of the seven federal appeals courts that have heard these cases, all but one have rejected the argument that having to opt out of a program so others’ needs can be met through separate arrangements is a substantial burden on one’s own exercise of religion.

The ACA requires coverage of FDA-approved birth control methods within health insurance plans as a core aspect of gender equality. Contraceptives are essential elements of preventive health care for many women and for some transgender men not just for pregnancy prevention but also to reduce risk of certain cancers, to alleviate pelvic pain, and to prevent or manage other health conditions. 

The Human Rights Campaign and the Transgender Law Center joined Lambda Legal as signatories in the amicus brief.


  • February 2016 Lambda Legal files amicus brief.
  • March 23, 2016 Oral arguments anticipated before the Supreme Court.

Case Information

Status: Closed


Jennifer C. Pizer, Law and Policy Project Director

Camilla B. Taylor, Counsel

Jon W. Davidson, Legal Director

Kyle Palazzolo, Staff and HIV Project Attorney

Hayley Gorenberg, Deputy Legal Director

Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Staff Attorney

Aisha N. Davis, Tyron Garner Fellow