02 July 2014

What The Hobby Lobby Decision Means For Us

This week, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to allow family-owned or other closely-held businesses to opt out of a Federal requirement to pay for contraceptives as part of an employee's health coverage.

In the media and public consciousness, it has come to be known as the Hobby Lobby case, after the chain of arts-and-crafts stores whose founder and CEO claimed that his religious rights were being violated when his company was required to pay for birth control.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the five judges who voted for this ruling were all appointed by Republican presidents, while the other four--including the three women on the bench--were appointed by Democrats.

I am not a Constitutional (or any other kind) of lawyer.  But, from what I understand, this ruling will affect far more than whether employers will include contraception in their employees' health insurance plans.

It almost goes without saying that the decision could open the door for employers to deny benefits to same-sex partners of employees if same-sex unions violate the religious beliefs of the employer.  And, of course, the ruling also means that such employers won't even have to think about whether or not to cover therapy, hormones, surgery or other treatments for transgenders.

Even if you don't care about LGBT equality, you should be concerned.  For example, if you should need a blood transfusion, your employer could refuse to cover it on the basis of his or her religion.  Or, I'm guessing, he or she could refuse to pay the cost of your office visits or treatments if, say, your gynecologist is male.

What do you do if your employer is a Christian Scientist or Scientologist?  The latter actually has the same tax-exempt religious status in the US that every mainstream church enjoys.

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