Statement on Supreme Court Ruling – Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.
Ilona Turner, Legal Director
Transgender Law Center is disappointed with today’s Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of two companies that had challenged the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that for-profit companies must provide their employees with contraceptive health care coverage. The Court held that the application of that requirement to “closely held corporations” violated another federal law, the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) because the majority concluded that the requirement substantially burdened the corporations’ religious beliefs, and that the contraceptive mandate was not the least restrictive means of furthering the government’s compelling interest in guaranteeing access to contraception.
Importantly, the majority opinion written by Justice Alito clarified that this decision should not provide a free pass to corporations to evade other laws, like those prohibiting discrimination. The Court’s ruling will not allow companies to discriminate against LGBT employees and then claim that their religious beliefs somehow justify that discrimination.
Nonetheless, this extremely troubling decision is an unprecedented step backwards. The Court has never before said that employers can use their religious beliefs as an excuse to deny their employees a benefit that they are guaranteed by law to receive. In ruling otherwise today, the Court simply got it wrong, with serious consequences for the health of women and all people who need access to birth control.
Although the Court today gives some companies the right to take away contraception coverage from their employees, the fight isn’t over. We urge Congress to take swift action to ensure that all people who need it have access to contraception without cost.