The U.S. Supreme Court decided Monday that certain closely held, for profit businesses can opt out of the birth control coverage mandate under the Obama health law, ruling that such firms cannot be forced to violate the religious views of their owners.
"Today's decision is a landmark decision for religious freedom," said Laurie Windham, one of the lead lawyers for the Oklahoma based arts and crafts store Hobby Lobby, whose owners had the legal charge against part of the contraceptive mandate.
"HHS's contraceptive mandate substantially burdens the exercise of religion," the court's conservative majority wrote in the ruling.
The Green family, which owns and operates Hobby Lobby, does provide contraceptive coverage for its employees - but objected to the requirements of the Obama health law to include four items, like the morning-after pill, which would block a pregnancy after conception.
You can read the entire ruling on the Supreme Court's website.
While this decision was a big setback for the Obama Administration and Democrats in Congress, some of whom labeled it a "dark day" at the U.S. Supreme Court, the ruling took pains to note it was not as sweeping as it could have been (the same as with another ruling issued Monday on unions and home health care workers.)
The majority expressly said the following:
"This decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to hold that all insurance-coverage mandates, e.g., for vaccinations or blood transfusions, must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer's religious beliefs. Nor does it provide a shield for employers who might cloak illegal discimination as a religious practice," wrote Justice Samuel Alito.
Democrats though found little to like in today's decision.
"Hobby Lobby takes us dangerously close toward a society where rights of corporations trump the basic rights of women who work for them," said Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL).
"I am disheartened that the court has chosen to take a woman’s personal healthcare decision out of her own hands and put it into the hands of her boss," said Rep. Jackie Spier (D-CA).
But Republicans found much to like.
"A great day for our country," said Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA). "Religious freedom prevails."
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