Two Kansas City-area companies that challenged the Affordable Care Act’s so-called contraception mandate won’t be required to cover birth control as part of their employees’ health care plans.
Citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, Senior U.S. District Judge Ortrie Smith on Wednesday barred federal officials from enforcing the requirement against Randy Reed Automotive Inc. and Sioux Chief Manufacturing Co.
Smith issued separate – and except for the names of the companies – identically worded orders in the cases. The outcomes were expected in the wake of the Hobby Lobby decision.
Smith made clear the orders he issued Wednesday applied only to current contraceptive regulations under the Affordable Care Act and not to future ones. He added that the plaintiffs were free to file new lawsuits to challenge any future regulations.
“It’s always great when you can score a win for religious liberty, especially when you have an attempt to force these owners of companies that have sincere religious convictions to violate those convictions under threat of severe penalties,” said Kevin H. Theriot, an attorney with the Alliance Defending Freedom who represented Randy Reed and Sioux Chief.
The companies were among scores of businesses around the country that sued over the contraception requirement, saying it ran afoul of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-to-4 that closely held, for-profit companies cannot be forced to cover contraceptives in their employees’ insurance plans if the companies’ owners object to birth control on religious grounds.
The Supreme Court case was brought by two companies whose owners claimed to operate them on Christian principles: Hobby Lobby, a crafts store chain, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a manufacturer of wood cabinets.
JE Dunn Construction Co., a Kansas City-based company owned by the Dunn family, filed a brief in support of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga.
The Hobby Lobby case marked the first time the Supreme Court recognized the right of corporations, as opposed to individuals, to exercise religious beliefs.
Randy Reed is owned by Kansas City car dealer Randy Reed, who operates Chevrolet, Buick and Nissan dealerships. Sioux Chief, based in Peculiar, Mo., is owned by the Ismert family and makes plumbing products.
Theriot said Randy Reed has 179 full-time employees and Sioux Chief has 370 full-time employees.
Smith’s orders were the second time in five days that he ruled in cases involving controversial social issues.
On Nov. 7, he found that Missouri’s 2004 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said he plans to appeal the decision.