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ACLU of Florida Responds to Supreme Court Decision Allowing Religious Claims to Restrict Women's Healthcare

Targeted News Service

MIAMI, June 30 -- The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida issued the following news release:

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court decided two cases (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby/Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwell) involving challenges to the federal regulation that requires health insurance plans to cover contraception. In a 5-4 opinion, the court ruled that the Affordable Care Act's mandate that the employers provide insurance coverage for employees' contraceptive needs violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA").

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) co-coordinated the amicus effort in support of the government, and filed a brief on behalf of Julian Bond, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and others, arguing that religious beliefs should not be invoked to justify discrimination.

In a related case originating in Florida and currently before the 11th Circuit, Beckwith Electric v. Sebelius, the ACLU of Florida along with the ACLU also filed an amicus brief arguing against similar claims to those brought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood.

In response to today's decision, ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon stated:

"What the Supreme Court did today was unprecedented: by a 5-4 vote the Court allowed a religious claim by a for-profit company to endanger the health of its female employees, and thereby endanger the health of women all across the country. The court gave for-profit employers the power, based on a new notion of corporate religious belief, to deny contraception coverage to their female employees."

"It's very disturbing that the court has carved out a new exception to federal law, saying that an employer's religious claims can be used to trump a woman's access to the healthcare she is guaranteed by law to receive. It is also telling that the decision only applies to women and their right to make decisions about their own healthcare.

"The attack on women's health is galling enough, but this is a dangerous precedent. As we have seen in Arizona and other states, there are some who would use religion to legitimize and legalize exemptions from anti-discrimination laws and other protections.

"We all have the right to our religious beliefs, but religious freedom does not mean the freedom to impose your beliefs on others or force others to conform to your beliefs. That is what today's unfortunate ruling by the Supreme Court now allows. The court's decision today was a huge step in the wrong direction, but the fight for women's right to reproductive healthcare and against religion being used as a license to discriminate is far from over."

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A statement by ACLU's deputy legal director and more information about the decision is available here: https://www.aclu.org/reproductive-freedom/supreme-court-allows-employers-discriminate-against-employees-denying

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