On November 2, 2012, two (unrelated) Catholic business owners filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. The plaintiffs alleged violations of the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA"), and the Administrative Procedures Act ("APA") by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel and the ActRight Legal Foundation, 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 each of the two options available to them under the rules--providing contraceptive coverage or ceasing to provide insurance altogether--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. Plaintiff Annex Medical terminated their employees' group health coverage as a result of their objection to contraceptive coverage.
On December 27, 2012, the court granted the ACLU leave to appear as amicus curiae for purposes of the motion for preliminary injunction only. In its brief opposing the injunction motion, the ACLU argued--as did the U.S.--that the contraception mandate did not substantially burden the plaintiffs' religious liberty rights under RFRA. The amicus brief further argued that the plaintiffs could not use RFRA to infringe on the rights of their female employees by denying those employees the equal health benefits guaranteed by the contraception mandate.
On January 8, 2013, the District Court (Judge David S. Doty) 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, and that the government's interest in providing for the health of women and children outweighed the plaintiffs' alleged harm. Annex Medical v. Sebelius, 2013 WL 101927 (D. Minn.).
The plaintiffs appealed the injunction denial to the 8th Circuit and filed an emergency motion for a preliminary injunction pending appeal. On January 17, 2013, District Court Judge Doty denied this emergency motion on the same grounds as his original injunction denial. 2013 WL 203526 (D. Minn.). The parties filed a joint motion to stay the district court proceedings pending the 8th Circuit appeal, which Judge Doty granted on January 25, 2013; a week later, the Court of Appeals enjoined the U.S. from enforcing the mandate against the plaintiffs for the duration of the appeal.
On March 1, 2013, the Court of Appeals denied the defendants' motion to consolidate the appeal with appeal No. 12-3357 (O'Brien v. HHS). The case was argued on October 24, 2013. On September 5, 2014, the Court of Appeals dismissed plaintiff Tom Janas, former business owner, from the appeal for lack of standing. (769 F.3d 578) For plaintiff Annex Medical and majority shareholder Stuart Lind, the Court remanded the case to the District Court for additional consideration of subject-matter jurisdiction. Since plaintiff Annex Medical had fewer than 50 employees, they were not legally mandated to provide health insurance coverage. The injury they alleged is that the defendants have created a regulatory framework causing them to be unable to find an insurer that will sell insurance to them without contraceptive coverage. The Court of Appeals found that the District Court needed to conduct additional fact-finding to make this determination.
On August 18, 2015, the District Court granted the plaintiffs leave to file an amended complaint, and the plaintiffs made changes to address a regulatory update in the federal government's formulation of the contraceptives mandate, setting out their continued objection to health insurance that provided contraceptive coverage for their employees, even if provided by the government working with the insurer. On August 19, 2015, the District Court granted a permanent injunction, with consent of the defendants, against enforcement of the version of the contraception mandate that existed when the Supreme Court decided Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius
, on June 30, 2014. The version of the mandate the Court ruled on in Hobby Lobby did not give for-profit employers an option to object based on religious grounds. The decision did not preclude the plaintiffs from bringing suit under later versions of the mandate, including the accommodation for closely-held for-profit religious corporations that was issued by the federal government on July 14, 2015. On October 13, 2015, the District Court granted additional time for the plaintiffs to file a motion for attorneys' fees and costs.
The case is ongoing.Hannah Swanson - 03/10/2013
Richard Jolly - 04/05/2014
Kate Craddock - 03/28/2016