On January 29, 2014, several privately-owned automobile dealerships filed this lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the U.S District Court for the District of Minnesota against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The ACA's contraception mandate requires employers to provide health insurance coverage for all FDA-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for women with reproductive capacity. The plaintiffs sought preliminary and permanent injunctions, alleging that the mandate violated their rights to free exercise of religion and free speech, the establishment of religion prohibition and equal protection, all in violation of the First and Fifth Amendments, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The plaintiffs, represented by the Liberty Institute, complained that no exemption or accommodation existed for for-profit organizations such as theirs, even if they objected to the Mandate based on sincerely-held religious beliefs.
On March 19, 2014, the District Court (Senior Judge Paul A. Magnuson) granted the plaintiff's March 3, 2014, motion for stay until the Supreme Court issued a ruling in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., No. 13-354 (later recaptioned Burwell v. Hobby Lobby). Because the government agreed to not take action while waiting for the Supreme Court's ruling, the plaintiffs' request for preliminary injunction was denied without prejudice as moot.
On May 28, 2014, the District Court granted the plaintiffs' renewed preliminary injunction and enjoined the defendants from enforcing the contraception mandate, again, while waiting for the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, which was handed down on June 30, 2014. In 5-4 opinion by Justice Alito, the Supreme Court held that the HHS regulations imposing the contraceptive mandate violated 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. Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, Stores, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2751 (2014).
In this case, on December 10, 2014, the District Court entered a judgment--stipulated by both sides--that in light of the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision the government was enjoined from enforcing the contraception mandate against the plaintiffs.
As of June 25, 2015, the issue of attorneys' fees and costs is ongoing.Beth Richardson - 07/08/2015