California files health-care law amicus brief

California Attorney General Kamala Harris on Monday filed a friend-of-the-court brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review whether for-profit businesses may claim religious exemptions from the national health-care law’s requirement that employee health plans cover birth control.

The brief urges the high court to hear Kathleen Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., and to overturn a lower court’s ruling that would allow two for-profit corporations to avoid full compliance with the law. The Obama Administration sought the court’s review last month.

“Access to contraceptive services is critical to the health of women and infants; women’s economic and social wellbeing; and women’s opportunities to participate fully in society,” the brief says. It also argues that a lower court’s determination that for-profit corporations may assert religious exemptions to certain laws could interfere with enforcement of other important regulations that protect public safety, civil rights, social welfare, housing, employment and public health.

“The freedom of individuals to exercise the religion of their choosing is one of the most important values in our society, as reflected by its enshrinement in the federal Constitution,” the brief says. “The federal government’s contraceptive coverage regulations under ACA respect that freedom through inclusion of appropriate exemptions, while also advancing the similarly compelling interests in public health and gender equality in access to health care. The court of appeals’ decision would upset that balance and threaten far-reaching impacts on the States beyond the issues presented by this action.”

Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington all joined in California’s brief, which addresses a ruling issued in June by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RRSenileColumnist

    Oppressed women, arise! You have nothing to lose but hiring preference, harassment complaints, equal pay provisions, etc.

  • JohnW

    So, if the boss happens to be a devout Christian Scientist, your health care policy may cover the cost of a book on the healing power of prayer. If the boss is Jehovah Witness, you may have to pay out of pocket for your blood transfusion. I wonder if Hobby Lobby Stores insurance covers little blue pills.

  • Gus

    you know what, no one is forced to work at Hobby Lobby, you don’t like what they offer (pay, benies, etc.), find another job…Government needs to NOT be telling everybody how they live every facet of their lives. If Hobby Lobby can’t compete for employees they will change or go under. I applaud them for taking a stand that is in line with their convictions.

  • Elwood

    What Gus said!

  • JohnW

    If health care was disconnected from employment, as many conservatives and some liberals favor, this wouldn’t be an issue.

    The Civil Rights Act prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of race, color, RELIGION, sex or national origin. I realize Ayn Rand disciples don’t like that, but it is the law.

    Hobby Lobby is not a religious organization. If they don’t want to offer any health care coverage, fine. If they want to exclude cancer coverage to save money, fine I guess. But if comprehensive health care coverage is part of the employment package and you decide to exclude something very specific based solely on religious criteria, that is discrimination on the basis of religion, in my opinion.

  • Elwood

    Press laughs at Carney. He walks out of room. This from “the most open administration in history”.


  • Max_1

    … Because expecting the White House to know what the HHS is up too, well?

  • JohnW

    Not one of Jay’s shining moments. More like the W.H. press corps gave him a shiner.

    Every White House spokesperson who comes from a journalism background starts out thinking he will have instant credibility with the press corps and that he will be their BFF. The press corps likes to hammer them, deserved or not, to prove that they aren’t showing favoritism toward one of their own. The spokesperson soon learns that tap dancing is a big part of the job description and eventually becomes depressed, then leaves for a high paying job in the private sector.

  • Elwood

    ” a high paying job in the private sector.”

    Apparently the ability to stand before an audience and lie convincingly is in great demand.