ACLU Responds to Supreme Court Decision in Zubik v. Burwell

Religious freedom does not include the right to discriminate against women

WASHINGTON — The United States Supreme Court today issued an opinion in Zubik v. Burwell that vacates the judgments  in the cases before it.  It also issued orders vacating the judgments of the decisions in all the contraceptive cases in which certiorari was pending.

“We are disappointed that the Court chose not to issue an opinion today conclusively resolving this dispute and ensuring that women receive health insurance coverage that includes contraceptive care without further delay,” said ACLU Deputy Legal Director Louise Melling. “We are, however, optimistic that the courts below will rule in favor of women’s access to the care they’re entitled to under federal law and that the highest court will resolve this matter once and for all on the right side of the law and history. Religious freedom does not include the right to discriminate against women.

The case was brought by religiously affiliated nonprofit organizations that object on religious grounds to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that health insurance companies cover contraception and to the process by which these employers can opt out of providing the coverage. Nine circuit courts had addressed the argument before the Court – that the opt-out process violates the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).  Eight, including the four circuit courts that decided the cases currently before the Court, had rejected the claim.

A religiously affiliated nonprofit organization or a closely held for-profit corporation can currently lodge an objection with its insurer or the federal government.  The insurance company then provides contraception coverage directly to the employees in a separate insurance plan. Zubik v. Burwell is a consolidation of seven cases from lower courts.  This case is only one occasion in which institutions are arguing their religion beliefs entitle them to discriminate or to deny services.  More than 100 bills have been introduced in state legislatures in 2016 alone that threaten to allow public officials and businesses to turn people away because of who they are.

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