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7th Circuit blocks Obamacare ‘contraception mandate’

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Roman Catholic employers – including the owners of an Indiana company – won a Circuit Court ruling Friday blocking the “contraception mandate” contained in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare.

A split panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed its earlier preliminary injuction in one of the farthest-reaching rulings on an issue that has divided federal circuits and almost certainly will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Friday’s order grants an injunction against enforcement of the mandate that requires employers to provide universal access to birth control.

The panel’s consolidated ruling was granted in two cases, William D. Grote III et al, v. Kathleen Sebelius, et al., 13-1077, and Cyril B. Korte et al. v. Kathleen Sebelius, et al., 12-3841.

Grote Industries, a Madison-based maker of vehicle safety systems, successfully claimed that requiring the company to provide contraception coverage through its self-insured healthcare plan violated its owners’ First Amendment and Fifth Amendment rights and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

“The plaintiffs are not asking the government to pay for anything. They are asking for relief from a regulatory mandate that coerces them to pay for something – insurance coverage for contraception – on the sincere conviction that doing so violates their religion,” Circuit Judge Diane Sykes wrote in the majority opinion joined by Judge Joel Flaum. “They have made a strong case that RFRA entitles them to that relief.”

Judge Ilana Rovner dissented, writing that the majority’s overreach hypothetically could prevent employees from obtaining embryonic stem-cell therapy; allow Christian Scientist business owners to severely restrict access to medical care based on their beliefs; or deny coverage to same-sex couples even in states that permit such unions, if the corporation’s owners have a religious objection to same-sex marriage. She warned the ruling could open a host of federal regulation to challenges based on the religious beliefs of corporate owners.

Rovner wrote that the majority’s holding “represents a dramatic turn in free exercise jurisprudence” and “bestows a highly personal right to religious exercise on two secular, for-profit corporations that have no facility of thought, conscience or belief. It deems the religious rights of the plaintiffs burdened by the contraception mandate without consideration of the indirect and minimal intrusion on their exercise of religion. And it disregards the extent to which the exemption from the mandate burdens the rights of the plaintiffs’ employees.”

The 7th Circuit majority noted its opinion aligns with a majority holding from the 10th Circuit, but that the 3rd Circuit has ruled in a similar case that “a for-profit, secular corporation cannot engage in the exercise of religion” and its owners have no claim against the contraception mandate. A Federal Circuit ruling held that for-profit corporations may not challenge the law on religious grounds, but that companies organized differently with individual owners may.
 

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  • attorneys please
    So, can the legal paper of record tell us who the attorneys were since the court does not find that important enough to record?

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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