On February 21, 2012, a college organized as a not-for-profit corporation, along with its majority stakeholder, another shareholder, and two affiliated companies filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania against the federal government, under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and the First and Fifth Amendments. Plaintiffs, represented by attorneys from the Alliance Defense Fund, and private counsel, sought to enjoin enforcement of provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) extending mandatory contraception coverage in employer-sponsored private health insurance coverage. Plaintiffs contended that this mandatory contraception coverage violates their sincerely held religious beliefs.
A motion by the ACLU to file an amicus brief was denied by Judge Joy Flowers Conti. On September 13, 2012, District Judge Joy Flowers Conti denied defendants' motion to stay discovery pending resolution of defendants' motion to dismiss, and on April 19, 2013, Judge Conti granted plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction.
On May 8, 2013, Judge Conti granted defendants' motion to dismiss in part and denied the motion to dismiss with respect to RFRA, the Free Exercise Clause, and the notice and comment claim under the APA. On May 22, 2013, plaintiffs moved for preliminary injunction. On June 17, 2013, defendants filed notice of appeal for the April 19 preliminary injunction.
On June 18, 2013, Judge Conti granted plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction. On August 17, 2013, defendants filed notice of appeal of the June 18 preliminary injunction. On September 12, 2013, defendants filed a motion for an indicative ruling to vacate both preliminary injunctions, which was eventually denied on October 18, 2013.
On November 12, 2013, the plaintiff filed another motion for preliminary injunction, which the District Court granted on December 23, 2013. The injunction lasted until a decision on the merits of the case.
On February 11, 2014, the defendant filed notice of appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. (No. 14-1374). On February 11, 2015, the Third Circuit (Chief Judge McKee, Circuit Judges Rendell, and Sloviter) ruled that the accommodation to the contraceptive services mandate does not impose a substantial burden on the plaintiff’s religious expression. Next, Geneva College asked for a rehearing en banc, and the Third Circuit denied the motion on April 13, 2015. On May 6, 2015, the same panel of the Third Circuit granted a temporary stay pending response by the Supreme Court in Zubik v. Burwell Zubik v. Burwell
. On August 11, 2015, Geneva College filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court.
On November 6, 2015, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case. The Court planned to consider whether notifying the federal government by signing a form identifying the employer as a religious nonprofit that objects to the contraceptive services mandate (so that the government can work with the insurer or benefits provider to ensure employees have contraceptive coverage) violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or constitutes the least restrictive means of achieving a compelling government interest. This case was consolidated with six other cases dealing with this issue. Together, the cases are known as Zubik v. Burwell.
This case was argued on March 23, 2016. On March 29, 2016, in an unusual move, the Supreme Court directed the parties to file supplemental briefs suggesting a solution to their disagreement, in which employees could still receive contraception coverage without employers giving any notice to the government. On May 16, 2016, the Court issued a per curiam order remanding all seven cases to their respective courts of appeals, ordering the lower courts to give the parties time to come to agreement on an approach that that "accommodates petitioners’ religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by petitioners’ health plans 'receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage.'" 136 S.Ct 1557, 1560. The Court took no position on the merits of this case. This case is now in the Third Circuit for consideration on remand. Wyatt Fore - 03/18/2013
Emma Lawton - 11/25/2013
Kate Craddock - 06/12/2016