The US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit on Thursday ruled [opinion, PDF] that Hobby Lobby [corporate website] may challenge the mandate to provide employees with coverage for contraceptives under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) [text; JURIST backgrounder]. The appeals court reversed the denial [opinion, PDF] of a preliminary injunction from the US District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma [official websites], holding that Hobby Lobby and Mardel are entitled to bring claims under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) [text]. The Green family, founders of Hobby Lobby and its sister company Mardel, contend that businesses, not just the currently exempted religious groups, should be excepted from that part of the PPACA if it violates the business-owners' religious beliefs. The court found that Hobby Lobby and Mardel sufficiently established a likelihood of success that their rights under this statute are substantially burdened by the contraceptive-coverage requirement and that they have established an irreparable harm. The court stopped short of granting or denying the preliminary injunction, however, remanding the case back to the district court for further evaluation of the two remaining preliminary injunction factorsbalance of equities and public interest.
The Green family challenge is one of the latest developments surrounding the PPACA. In February a group of nine senators and two representatives joined to file an amicus brief [JURIST report] in support of Hobby Lobby and Mardel. Last December the US Supreme Court [official website] said it would not intervene by issuing an injunction while an appeal was still pending with the Tenth Circuit, to which the Greens have responded that they would not comply [JURIST reports] with the mandate even without a protective injunction. Justice Sonia Sotomayor ruled that the Oklahoma City family's religiously oriented business did not meet the requirements to allow an injunction against the PPACA's mandate. The opinion stated that the Hobby Lobby family did not meet the standard of showing that they have an "indisputably clear" legal right to an injunction while appeal is pending.