On October 9, 2012, a family of Catholic business owners filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois under the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA"), and the Administrative Procedures Act ("APA"), against the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury. The plaintiffs, represented by the American Center for Law & Justice, asked the court for both declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that federal rules adopted pursuant to the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("ACA") violated their religious freedom by requiring them to provide coverage for contraception through their companies' group health insurance plans. Claiming that providing contraceptive coverage would contravene their Catholic faith, the plaintiffs sought an exemption from the ACA's contraception mandate for themselves and other business owners with similar religious objections. On October 10, the plaintiffs moved for partial summary judgment.
On December 14, 2012, the District Court (Judge Michael J. Reagan) denied the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction, finding that indirect financial support of subjectively objectionable conduct was not a substantial burden on the plaintiffs' religious freedom. Korte v. DHHS, 2012 WL 6553996 (S.D. Ill. Dec. 14, 2012).
The plaintiffs appealed the preliminary injunction order to the 7th Circuit (Docket No. 12-03841). On December 28, 2012, District Court Judge Reagan granted the defendant departments' motion to stay the district court proceedings pending the 7th Circuit appeal. That same day, the 7th Circuit (Circuit Judges Joel M. Flaum and Diane S. Sykes, with Circuit Judge Ilana D. Rovner dissenting) granted the plaintiffs' emergency motion for an injunction pending appeal, finding that the coerced coverage of contraception imposed a substantial burden on the plaintiffs' religious freedom. Korte v. Sebelius, 2012 WL 6757353 (7th Cir. Dec. 28, 2012).
On January 30, 2013, the 7th Circuit consolidated the case with Grote v. Sebelius (FA-IN-0004
) The 7th Circuit (Judges Flaum, Sykes, and Rovner) heard arguments in the case on May 22, 2013.
On November 8, 2013, the Seventh Circuit (Judge Sykes) held that both business owners and their companies may challenge the mandate and could state a valid claim under the RFRA. The Court reversed and remanded the case with instructions to enter preliminary injunctions barring enforcement of the contraception mandate against plaintiffs. Grote v. Sebelius, No. 12-3841, 2013 WL 5960692 (7th Cir. Nov. 8, 2013).
The government sought review in the Supreme Court, and on November 27, 2013, the case was stayed pending the Supreme Courts' decision in Hobby LobbyBurwell v. Hobby Lobby
(also known as Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius) and Conestoga Wood Specialities Corps.
The Hobby Lobby decision
issued on June 30, 2014: In 5-4 opinion by Justice Alito, the Court held that the HHS regulations imposing the contraceptive mandate violate RFRA, when applied to closely-held for-profit corporations. (The Court emphasized, however, that alternative methods for meeting the government's asserted interest were available.) The next day, the Supreme Court denied the government's petition for review in this case.
On July 28, 2014, the District Court lifted the stay. On August 12, 2014, the Seventh Circuit (Judge Sykes) awarded the plaintiffs $578.80 in costs. On September 3, 2014, the District Court entered an order continuing the preliminary injunction, and on November 7, 2014, the Court granted the joint motion for summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs on their RFRA claim, entered a permanent injunction against enforcement of the contraception services mandate as it existed in law and regulation on June 30, 2014, and dismissed all other claims against defendants. On February 26, 2015, the District Court entered judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, and noted that the parties had reached an independent settlement on attorneys' fees and costs. Emma Lawton - 11/17/2013
Richard Jolly - 03/23/2014
Kate Craddock - 02/21/2016