Supreme Court Issues Ruling on Hobby Lobby Case

UPDATE: Colorado politicians are busy giving their opinions on the ruling. The best line we've seen thus far is from Democrat Andrew Romanoff, whose statement begins, "Five men made the wrong call for millions of women."

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From CNN:

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that closely held companies cannot be required to pay to cover some types of contraceptives for their employees, ending its term with a narrow legal and political setback for a controversial part of President Barack Obama's health care reform law.

In a 5-4 decision, the high court's conservatives essentially ruled that some for-profit corporations have religious rights.

The owners of Hobby Lobby, furniture maker Conestoga Wood Specialties and Christian bookseller Mardel argued that the Affordable Care Act violates the First Amendment and other federal laws protecting religious freedom because it requires them to provide coverage for contraceptives like the "morning-after pill," which the companies consider tantamount to abortion.

We'll leave it to others to discuss the legal implications of today's highly-anticipated decision from the Supreme Court. But from a Colorado politics perspective, this ruling could have a very real impact on the 2014 election.

Democratic Sen. Mark Udall was among the first Senators to respond to the decision publicly, saying via Twitter that contraceptive decisions should be between a woman and her doctor. Udall's campaign also immediately pointed to Republican Rep. Cory Gardner's history of supporting legislation to allow employers to deny contraceptive coverage to their employees. From a press release:

The Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision today, which Congressman Cory Gardner applauded, gives employers the right to terminate birth control coverage for their employees. The result is similar to two radical bills cosponsored by Gardner in 2011 and 2013. Gardner’s bills gave all employers the ability to strike any medication or procedure from their employees’ insurance plans based on their personal beliefs.

“Today the Supreme Court followed Congressman Cory Gardner’s lead in putting a woman’s boss in charge of her family planning decisions,” said Women for Udall director Kim Howard. “A woman should never have to ask her boss’ permission before choosing birth control.”

The Hobby Lobby decision allows Gardner's opponents another opportunity to bring up his record on contraception and abortion issues — a record Gardner has tried hard to re-imagine for Colorado voters.

82 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Tazistan JenTazistan Jen says:

    I especially like the part where Scalia reassured everyone that religious objections to transfusions or vaccinations wouldn't fly.  Only religious objections he, himself agrees with, I guess.

  2. Golden GirlGolden Girl says:

    Decision went a long way toward negating Republican efforts to recruit the women's vote…

    http://www.msnbc.com/morning-joe/gop-pac-eyes-womens-votes

    Ain't gonna happen Pubs! 

  3. ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

    The decision to use contraceptives is between a woman and her doctor. The decision of whether another person/entity will pay for it though, is not. 

    • gertie97 says:

      Does that apply to vasectomies?

    • Curmudgeon says:

      Supporting a company's right to impose its religious beliefs on an employee. 

      How very Libertarian of you. 

      • gertie97 says:

        We're waiting, EF.

      • Progressicat says:

        IN fairness to libertarians, their view (and I speak generally, not for Elliot) would not be that this is, in any way, a company imposing its religious beliefs on employees.

        Employees and employers should be able to enter into an agreement whereby employees provide their skills and the employer compensates them for that.  The terms of that compensation (whether insurance is provided, what sort, how much) are all open to negotiation, with an agreement formed by acceptance of employment.  That insurance is provided to any extent is either because the market drives such compensation or because the employer believes it provides him/her with financial benefit (which having healthy workers does).

        Actual libertarians don't believe that anyone has the right to healthcare of any kind, let alone contraception, except that they can provide it for themselves either by paying cash when services are rendered or by entering into a contractual obligation with some third party (insurer) to negotiate prices and pay bills on their behalf.

    • Ralphie says:

      Don't want to pay to avoid unwanted pregnancies?  Prepare for more abortions.

    • So EF – what do you think of the Court's narrow interpretation – that this is limited to contraceptives only, and does not apply to the broader topic of religious exemptions to coverage?

      • Urban Snowshoer says:

        While the scope of the decision is narrow, I'd say it's more likely than not that there will be more litigation by business owners seeking religious exemptions. 

        Whether or not the United States Supreme Court grants such exemptions is a seperate question.

      • ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

        It is even more narrow than that – it is was just whether Hobby Lobby could claim the same accomadation already offered to non-profits. 

        • Not specifically, it wasn't. The ruling was that RFRA allowed closely held companies to not provide birth control (any and all of the 20 methods mentioned in Federal law).

          The reasoning was that there were less intrusive ways to provide birth control to these women – including having the Administration create a new rule to acommodate these companies under the same conditions as the religious affiliated non-profits. Of course, with the Little Sisters Of The Poor challenging even the certification requirement of that program, that's no sure thing, either. (Other options, some of which seem as connected to Reality as the statement in Citizens United that Congress could easily require full disclosure of all campaign spending, seem less likely than adding companies covered by Hobby Lobby to the accommodation program…)

          The real question is: what is "less intrusive"? If companies claiming this kind of exemption represent an overall small portion of the job market, is it too intrusive to ask them to hire non-discriminately? After all, there's not a job shortage…  Or vaccinations: governments pay to get some people vaccinated – couldn't they just expand that subsidy to companies that didn't believe in them? Governments also pay for Medicaid coverage – shouldn't they be able to accommodate Christian Scientist owned companies who don't believe in medical care?

    • ModeratusModeratus says:

      Hear hear, Elliot. Libs want more than their rights, they expect everyone else to pay for them.

    • We mandate all kinds of things for businesses. Safety, hiring practices, minimum wages, pollution controls. Of course, we've been over this before.

      The purpose of a corporation, according to many of our Founding Fathers, was to provide a mechanism for several people to come together under a common legal framework to provide for the Common Good. They thought that incorporation was a necessary evil – like Intellectual Property – to be tightly controlled and put out of the public's misery once it failed to continue in its service. Hobby Lobby doesn't appear to follow that goal.

    • BlueCat says:

      The decision was made via the duly passed ACA. Lots of decisions about how our money is spent are taken out of our hands in our democratically elected representative form of government. Pacifists don't get to deduct the cost of supporting the military from their taxes, for instance.

      I also don't get to withhold my share of taxes to be spent on tax funded public Christmas displays on government property even though I'm not Christian and wouldn't make the decision to spend my tax money on Christian holiday decorations.  And, no, there is no such thing as secular Christmas or secular Christmas decorations because, regardless of the pagan origins of many of the symbols associated with Christmas or the number of non-believers who celebrate it as if it were secular, it is a specifically religious holiday celebrating the birth of the one some believe to be the son of God and the savior of mankind (I certainly don't) these symbols, religious or pagan  are now firmly connected with the celebration of this clearly Christian holiday. 

      Seems like I'd be on much firmer constitutional grounds objecting to my money being taken without my consent to be spent on government property Christmas displays than is a company, an entity which can have no official religion regardless of the fact that it's owners do and which should follow the rules for companies operating in the public market place, in demanding to be excused from following those rules.

      Those who wish to be able to discriminate on religious grounds should find a line of work that doesn't involve conducting a commercial operation in the open marketplace which is governed by rules that don't permit such discrimination.

      In Hobby Lobby's case an alleged religious objection to paying for birth control, whether you believe the company should be allowed to avoid complying with duly passed law or not, is seriously undermined by the fact that they do cover vasectomies and viagra, a birth control one two punch, both facilitating sexual activity and providing a means of  preventing that activity from resulting in procreation. How very "family values" (their definition of family values, not mine) of them. 

      The religious value they really seem to have chosen as their guiding principle is that of patriarchy and female subservience.  If it's OK to have one set of rules for birth control for men and another for women on religious grounds then what is to stop some other company from demanding relief from complying with laws against gender based discrimination on the grounds that the company's owners' religion does not allow women to hold authority over men and therefore they must be allowed to deny managerial positions to women which might give them authority over men?  How about relief from covering vaccinations? Blood transfusions? How about a business owner becoming a Christian Scientist and refusing to cover anything?

      Just because the conservative male Supremes claim the decision is narrow and their is no danger of such spill over doesn't mean that they are correct in that evaluation. 

  4. Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

    The people of this country MUST NOT allow another Republican to occupy the White House. The neo-con faction of the Supreme Court, aided vigorously by the neo-con Congress, are stripping away the New Deal…it has been their goal all along.

    Until Scalia or Thomas succumb to their lifestyle, the only hope for the working people of this nation is to give Democrats control of the other two branches of government until those two old farts die or retire.

    Pitchforks ready?

     

      • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

        Right. when I saw the Politico piece this morning, all I could think of was the oft quoted notion…"morality is what keeps poor people from killing rich people".

        If the GOP and it's leaders do not wake up to this reality very soon, it is not going to go well for them…Can you say, "President Warren"…?

         

      • plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

        In my present position I could scarcely be justified were I to omit raising a warning voice against this approach of returning despotism.

        It is not needed nor fitting here that a general argument should be made in favor of popular institutions, but there is one point, with its connections, not so hackneyed as most others, to which I ask a brief attention. It is the effort to place capital on an equal footing with, if not above, labor in the structure of government. It is assumed that labor is available only in connection with capital; that nobody labors unless somebody else, owning capital, somehow by the use of it induces him to labor.

        [...] Now there is no such relation between capital and labor as assumed, nor is there any such thing as a free man being fixed for life in the condition of a hired laborer. Both these assumptions are false, and all inferences from them are groundless.

        [...] Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights. Nor is it denied that there is, and probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital producing mutual benefits. The error is in assuming that the whole labor of community exists within that relation. A few men own capital, and that few avoid labor themselves, and with their capital hire or buy another few to labor for them.

        – Abraham Lincoln, State of the Union address, Dec. 1861

    • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

      …and does that mean we can now tax them at an individual rate, not the corporate one?  No more "carried interest" for you, HL…

  5. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    Does this apply to Walmart? That is a "closely held company", right? Just family members?

    It's really discouraging news for women, in principle. In practice, I think that women  who work for these conservative family companies, and who can't get birth control covered by insurance, will be accessing over the counter remedies,  (Plan B) or going to planned parenthood clinics.

    Or, they're going to be getting abortions, as Ralphie said. That assumes that they still have access to a pharmacy which carries the morning-after products, and that there is still a clinic within driving distance which provides abortions. The Christian right has been pretty successful in closing many of those clinics, and is currently pressuring pharmacies not to carry the morning-after remedies.

    • Ralphie says:

      Walmart is publicly traded (NYSE).  By definition, it's not closely held.

      • Progressicat says:

        Well, not quite.  Closely held corporations can be publicly listed and traded.  Generally majority ownership is in a few foolks' hands.

        Walmart is such a company, iirc.  Here's some discussion at the Kos

        • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

          Holy crap. Koch brothers AND Walmart could be considered as "closely held corporations"? That's like  20% of the labor force, by my wild-ass guess.

        • Ralphie says:

          I think this decision was narrow in that regard

           

          • FrankUnderwood says:

            Until next hyear when they weigh in on the religious rights of commercial bakeries when asked to bake wedding vakes for same sex couples…..

          • BlueCat says:

            What starts out being narrow doesn't always end up that way. I believe that the Supremely Chauvinist Conservative 5 may also be supremely deluded.

            • Diogenesdemar says:

              It also isn't just narrow v. broad. It's also a lesson in I intended consequences.  This decision was only peripheral, if at all, to any constitutional question . . .

              . . . but take a piece of 1993 legislation, that was pretty much intended to allow native Americans to injest peyote, and use eagle feathers as adornments, for religious ceremonies free of government bureaucratic interference . . . 

              . . . wait a few years, until a retrograde-scotus bestows personhood on corporations (. . . don't know why these fuckers don't have to wait until they're eighteen to vote, or twenty-one to drink — but I digress . . . ) . . .

              . . . and then wake up one day and we discover that businesses not in the business of religion, can still claim a religion . . .

              . . . and l that's left to say, besides WTF, is that there sure seems to be a lot of Clinton-era-parsing-and-too-smart-by-half legislation (remember how Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell was once cheered as a great civil rights' victory?) that is more akin to a giant IED, long forgotten, planted alongside our highway to the future.

        • Ralphie says:

          Well, according to the IRS definition it might apply to Walmart.  Here's the IRS definition of "closely held"

          Generally, a closely held corporation is a corporation that:

          • Has more than 50% of the value of its outstanding stock owned (directly or indirectly) by 5 or fewer individuals at any time during the last half of the tax year; and
          • Is not a personal service corporation.

          The definitions for the terms "directly or indirectly" and "individual" are in Publication 542, Corporations.

          A closely held corporation is subject to additional limitations in the tax treatment of items such as passive activity losses, at-risk rules, and compensation paid to corporate officers.

  6. DavieDavie says:

    Making like a turtle, Mike Coffman's reaction to the SCOTUS decision?

    Coffman, who like Gardner recently reversed his pro-personhoood stance, was the only politician of the four not to weigh-on in the #HobbyLobby case via social media. Like Gardner, he has also voted in support of religious opt-outs to the healthcare mandate. Coffman's campaign office did not return calls and emails on the matter.

    http://www.coloradoindependent.com/148027/supreme-courts-hobby-lobby-decision-knocks-up-colorado-politics

  7. ScottP says:

    This just underscores the need to get healthcare away from employers. It made sense before when it was thought that people would work for the same company throughout their lives but that's not the case anymore.

    • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

      That was one of the main justifications for the ACA, and will be for Medicaid for all or some other single-payer system. Then the USA can join every other industrialized country in recognizing that public health is the "common good" like clean air and clean water.

      • dwyer says:

        @mj55 and ScottP

        100++

        this is absolutely  the very best argument for a single payer system through the

        government.  Running a craft store or manufacturing cars or building oil pipelines has absolutely nothing to do with religion  or reproduction…..except for the health and safety of working conditions.  Why should corporations be dragged into these very personal areas?  Why should employees" medical records be availabe to  HR departments, anyway?  

         

        • DaftPunkDaftPunk says:

          Why should taxpayers be forced to fund medications/procedures which violate their sincerely held religoius views?

          • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

            Separation of church and state…not just a good idea – it's the law.

            • BlueCat says:

              Hobby Lobby's fine with vasectomies and viagra. So if you're a woman who wants to to enjoy a healthy relationship with your husband without having a completely irresponsible number of kids in relation to your family income or for your health or sanity, screw you. But if you're a man and want to get snipped, take viagra and have all the sex you want with no worries about having kids, that doesn't offend Hobby Lobby's Chrisian values at all.  Because they're complete hypocrites who apparently have something against women enjoying sex the way men do.

              http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/30/hobby-lobby-viagra_n_5543916.html

              • dwyer says:

                @BC

                I want to agree with you totally on this statement and clarify another that you made.

                Here is where you are absolutely right.  In the long ago dark ages, I worked for a company that received federal funding and in whose employ  no woman was allowed to be in postion of authority over men.

                what is to stop some other company from demanding relief from complying with laws against gender based discrimination on the grounds that the company's owners' religion does not allow women to hold authority over men and therefore they must be allowed to deny managerial positions to women which might give them authority over men?  How about relief from covering vaccinations? Blood transfusions? How about a business owner becoming a Christian Scientist and refusing to cover anything? – See more at: http://coloradopols.com/diary/59915/supreme-court-issues-ruling-on-hobby-lobby-case#comment-554490

                 

                The range of religious exceptions on the issue of birth control is  immense and confusing and another reason to get employers out of the insurance business.

                1) Hobby Lobby does NOT object to all birth control only those measures that could possibly act on the fertilized act prior to implantation  There are only four; one of which however is the criticallly important Plan B or morning after pill.

                2) The Little Sisters of the Poor and all Catholic organizations that have the existing religious exemptions will not fund any kind of contraceptions, or sterilizations.

                3) Catholic Hospital do not prescribe birth control or do abortions or any sterilizations.

                4) Catholic hospitals during catholic Owen's administration successfully fought agains the proposed Colorado law tthat mandated hospitals to tell rape victims about the Morning After Pill.

                5) Catholic Governor Bill Ritter signed that legislation and Catholic Hospitals complied.

                I don't think this list is by anymeans exhaustive.  

                • dwyer says:

                  Correction:

                  Fertilized egg, not act…..at least as far as I know…

                • BlueCat says:

                  1)Hobby Lobby isn't a religious institution. 

                  2)They're characterizing of many forms of birth control as abortifacient is not based on science. Birth control pills, for instance work by changing hormonal balance to prevent ovulation in the first place. No egg released. No fertilization. Is there a tiny percent of the time when it might not work exactly that way? Probably. However to characterize it as an abortifacient is incorrect. It's like saying that because every pregnancy doesn't go to term, women's bodies themselves are abortifacient.

                   

                   

                  • dwyer says:

                    @BC

                    There are four kinds of birth control that MAY act to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus.  Gestation is considered the length of time from fertilization to birth. The religious belief is that a "soul" and/or a person exists from the moment of conception, not implantation.  That was the crux of the Hobby Lobby argument.  To believe that a soul is created at the time of conception is a religious belief.To consider it wrong to destroy this fertilized egg by preventing its implantation is a religious belief.   To know that a fertilized egg exists from the moment of conception is a scientific fact, not a religious belief. To know that, absent human intervention to prevent implantation or a natural occurance within the women's body that prevents implantation or natural or human intervention that destroys the fertilized egg, the fertilized egg will develop into a  baby when it is born is a scientific fact. 

                     

                    That all of this should NOT be the business of politicians and employers and bystanders is both a religious belief (mine) and a scientific fact…which I assert without evidence.

                    • BlueCat says:

                      Thanks, teach, but I know exctly how the various types work, what gestation means as well as being aware of religious views which are irrelevant to the science.

          • langelomisteriosolangelomisterioso says:

            Not just religious although that's the particular crutch they've chosen to lean on in this case. Why should I be forced to pay for F-35s and other failed programs or even M-4s ? I don't believe in war. I's a deeply held sincere belief albeit not religious because I don't believe in religion either.

          • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

            Huffpost had a satiric article on this by Ryan Grim – Grim thinks that there is now room for religious exemptions for nudists, acidheads, honor killiers, and hemp evangelists (Bowman take note).

      • BlueCat says:

        I think you mean medicare for all.

        • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

          Yes, Medicare for all. Perhaps we should thank SCOTUS for making this even more of an obvious solution.

          • BlueCat says:

            Maybe we should. With rulings like this, the only way out of the mess they're creating is to divorce employers from health care coverage. Let our government, mandated to have no state religion nor to promote or ban religious belief or unbelief, replace the employer, who shouldn't be in the business of making people's health care decisions in the first place, as the provider of  a basic universal quality plan. Let everyone have that as guaranteed coverage with the option of adding more on the free market if they desire.  I'm sure the Little Sisters would be happy to have the whole thing taken out of their hands.

  8. The realistThe realist says:

    I would love to see a whole new movement, something like "Save Hobby Lobby Employees – Give Them a Better Job." Hire them all away at a better salary (and of course better benefits) with a different employer. Then the Hobby Lobby sect can breed its own employees. I certainly will never shop there again (and frankly they've made almost no money from me during my lifetime).

     

  9. BlueCat says:

    Oh and I don't take any comfort in the supposed narrowness of the ruling.  Narrow rulings from the conservatives have had one purpose since they ruled on Bush v Gore with the caveat that the decision not be seen as establishing a precedent. They knew it was a blatantly bad ruling, based on a demand for conformity in recounting procedures across the state, something that had never existed in any state and still doesn't today. Pretty much would have brought elections everywhere to a standstill had it not been so oddly presented as one case only deal. Their one purpose is obviously to find ways to get what they want in specific cases even though they know their decisions are constitutional bull. 

  10. Some fallacies accepted in the Supreme Court decision and discussions following:

    * That this is only about a few methods of birth control. The Supreme Court itself said that their ruling covered all methods of birth control as recognized by the ACA.

    * That the methods of birth control Hobby Lobby was objecting to were abortifacents. The "morning after" pill has been scientifically shown to act as any other oral contraceptive – by preventing impregnation and implantation. Abortion as a medical term involves removing an implanted embryo from its implanted state.

    * That this ruling was limited to the topic of birth control. Oral hormone contraceptives have FDA approved uses outside of contraception. Some of these conditions are quite serious, and the lack of an available prescription to treat them goes way beyond "moral objections" – it's heartless denial of medical treatment and an endangerment of the otherwise covered employee by their employer.

    * That Hobby Lobby has a strong moral objection to abortion. If they were really serious about it, they could move their product sourcing from China (land of many abortions for population control) and ensure that their investments (and the 401(k) plans offered to their employees) didn't include companies that made the very pills and devices to which they object. This was a chosen domestic political fight, not a clear commitment to morals.

  11. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    Oh my gosh, I can't wait to try this adorable crafting idea! Thanks Hobby Lobby!

     

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