Countdown Clocks

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Posts tagged "SCOTUS"

H/T: Jean Ann Esselink at The New Civil Rights Movement

h/t: Sahil Kapur at TPM

H/T: Miranda Blue at RWW

H/T: Peter Montgomery at RWW

h/t: Ian Millhiser at Think Progress Justice

Much to the chagrin of women’s rights advocates, Hobby Lobby has won its legal battle — but claims of “victory” for religious freedom must be emended. Make no mistake: This is no victory for the freedom to exercise Christian principles. Though employers like Hobby Lobby are now free to deny women access to contraceptives through their employer-subsidized health plans on the basis of religious objection, they will be violating their own purported Christian principles if they do. While Christians are not compelled by their faith to engage in religious practices that impose upon the freedoms of others, they are compelled — by their belief that all persons, men and women, are created in the image of God — to oppose discrimination.

Employers are now free to deny women access to contraceptives through their employer-subsidized health plans, though they will be violating their own purported Christian principles if they do.

Some corporations that have objected to the contraceptive requirements of the Affordable Care Act, like Hobby Lobby, claim that they do not wish to discriminate against women by denying them access to contraceptives generally, and that their opposition is merely to abortion. However, their understanding of which medications act as abortifacients rests on an outdated understanding of medical science and is at odds with the facts of the matter. Use of these contraceptive methods is not tantamount to abortion, and moreover, providing women with access to safe, reliable contraceptives for free drastically reduces the actual abortion rate.

It is likely that women will ultimately retain coverage, anyhow, though religious employers are now able to legally withhold it. The Supreme Court assumed in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that the government has a compelling interest in ensuring that women have full access to preventive care. It appears that a majority of the court believes that this interest is compelling. The issue still under real legal dispute is how that coverage will be provided.

One suggestion is that the Obama administration extend to closely held, for-profit corporations the same accommodation already in place for religiously affiliated nonprofits. If a corporation objects, on religious grounds, to covering contraceptives in its health plan, it can fill out a two-page form, with five questions (two of which are providing a signature and the date), self-certifying that it meets the requirements for religious accommodation. By submitting this form, employees will be provided contraceptive coverage directly from their insurance company rather than through their employer.

This very exemption, however, currently faces its own legal threat from some Christian religious organizations, which claim that notifying the government of their objections to contraceptive use is itself religiously objectionable, as doing so will “trigger” the provision of coverage by a third party. The University of Notre Dame and Wheaton College are among several institutions that have brought such challenges. There is very little sense to be made of claims that your freedom of religion is substantially burdened by someone else’s providing services that you do not want to provide yourself. This suggests that the legal challenges are not merely aimed at allowing corporations to abstain from facilitating behavior they deem immoral but instead are seeking to effectively prevent women from engaging in that “immoral” behavior by keeping financial barriers for women, and administrative barriers for the government, in place.

This is economic coercion. Opponents to the contraceptive mandate have insisted that women remain free to purchase whatever health care services they choose, but this is woefully insensitive to the reality that low-income women and families face. For these women, there is a very large difference between what is available to them for purchase in principle and in effect. It is easy for those who do not regularly face desperate decisions due to financial insecurity or medical complexities to forget the difference. An intrauterine device, for example, can cost a low-income full-time worker more than a month’s wages. For some women, this is both the safest and most effective medical option, yet hopelessly unaffordable.

This kind of economic coercion is distinctly at odds with Christian principles. There is only one incident described in the Christian scriptures where Jesus is represented as employing coercive force, and it was not used to prevent people from engaging in sin. It was used, instead, to prevent people from dishonoring God by exploiting religious practice for personal gain. The gospels describe Jesus’ reaction to those who sought to profit from the Passover pilgrimage to the temple as fierce: “And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, ‘Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.’” This is where corporations that claim their operations constitute religious practice of the Christian faith ought to take note.

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Read previous contributions to this series.

Hobby Lobby offered coverage for some of the contraceptives it now claims its religious faith forbids it to have any association with, until shortly after the Becket Fund for Religious Freedom asked it if it would be interested in filing suit. The company continues to profit from investments in the manufacturers of the “objectionable” contraceptives through the 401(k) plan it offers its employees. Recently, Hobby Lobby has faced legal trouble for false advertising. It has built a fortune, in large part, by selling goods manufactured in China, infamous for its poor labor conditions and related human rights violations. These are the practices of a corporation that will emphasize the Christian faith of its owners when convenient and profitable, but set that faith aside when it would be costly to do otherwise.

Hobby Lobby is not the only corporation which has objected to the law through what seems to be quite selective applications of Christian principle. Offering health care coverage as called for by the Affordable Care Act is morally permissible according to the Catholic philosophical tradition, and the sincerity of institutions like the University of Notre Dame is questionable.

The more pressing question religious corporations should ask themselves is whether denying women comprehensive health care while providing it to men, and so failing to respect women’s inherent dignity and equality, is consistent with their religious values. Since the Supreme Court focused on the practical effects at stake (that is, whether women would be able to obtain coverage elsewhere, and thus by a less restrictive means) rather than on the expressive function of the law, Hobby Lobby is now free to discriminate in its provision of health care. But the question remains, why would it want to?

H/T: Kathyrn Pogin at The New York Times' Opinionator Blogs

thepoliticalfreakshow:

A federal appeals court has ruled for the second time that states cannot prevent same-sex couples from getting married.

A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on Friday has found a ban on same-sex marriage in Oklahoma violates the U.S. Constitution. In a Utah case, the court ruled June 25 that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to wed.

Lower courts struck down Utah and Oklahoma’s voter-approved bans in December and January, respectively.

The rulings are the first at the appellate level since the U.S. Supreme Court changed the legal landscape by striking down the Defense of Marriage Act in June 2013. They are likely to be appealed to the high court.

Gay marriage in both states is on hold until appeals are resolved.

Developing story. This report will be updated.

No surprise here sadly. 

h/t: Donna Cassata at AP, via Yahoo

h/t: George Zornick at The Nation

h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW

H/T: Chris Johnson at the Washington Blade

h/t: Michael Sherrard at TPM

thepoliticalfreakshow:

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal appeals court has denied Utah’s request for an indefinite stay pending appeal of a ruling ordering the state to recognize more than 1,000 gay marriages that took place in the state after a same-sex marriage ban was overturned.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals issued the order late Friday afternoon. The court will keep the stay in place until July 21 to give Utah time to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to leave the stay in place.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office didn’t immediately have comment. It’s unclear if the state will ask the high court for relief.

If the state doesn’t go to the Supreme Court, couples can begin moving forward with issues such as child custody, medical decisions and inheritance on July 21.

h/t: Sahil Kapur at TPM

thepoliticalfreakshow:

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Today was the last day for Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes to ask for an en banc review of last month’s decision by a three-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit Court. Instead, Reyes is going directly to SCOTUS.

UPDATE: Just in via Winslow.

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UPDATE II: The NCLR responds. 

We want this case to move forward to a final resolution as quickly as possible. Every day, loving and committed same-sex couples and their families in Utah are being harmed by the continued enforcement of measures that deny them equal dignity, security and protection—even though both the federal district court and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals have held they violate fundamental constitutional guarantees. We look forward to the day every family in Utah has the freedom to marry, and we will work hard to make that happen as soon as possible.

UPDATE III: Freedom To Marry reacts. 

The Supreme Court should take this case and swiftly move to end marriage discrimination across the country. Every day of delay is a day of hardship for couples and their loved ones wrongly denied the freedom to marry and respect for their families. The American people support the freedom to marry, but the law still discriminates for too many American couples in too many states.