On May 7, 2012, an organization of Catholic business owners (Legatus) and one of its member businesses (Weingartz Supply Co.) filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The plaintiffs sued the federal government under the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA"), and the Administrative Procedures Act ("APA"). The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel and the Thomas More Law Center, 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 31, 2012, the District Court (Judge Robert H. Cleland) granted plaintiff Weingartz Supply Co.'s motion for a preliminary injunction, finding that the contraception mandate substantially burdened the plaintiff's religious freedom. Judge Cleland denied plaintiff Legatus's injunction motion, finding that Legatus qualified for the enforcement safe harbor period and thus had not alleged a concrete and imminent harm. Judge Cleland also instructed the defendants to report monthly on the status of their ongoing rulemaking process. Legatus v. Sebelius, 901 F. Supp. 2d 980 (E.D. Mich. 2012).
The government appealed the Weingartz Supply Co. preliminary injunction order to the Sixth Circuit (Docket No. 13-01092). Plaintiff Legatus appealed its injunction denial to the Sixth Circuit (Docket No. 13-01093). The 6th Circuit consolidated the two appeals. On January 31, 2013, District Court Judge Cleland granted the the government's motion to stay the district court proceedings pending the Sixth Circuit appeals.
The Government published the amended final regulations of the ACA on July 2, 2013. Plaintiffs Legatus voluntarily dismissed its Sixth Circuit appeal and on August 9, 2013, the court lifted the stay and reopened the case with respect to Legatus and the government. On August 30, 2013, Legatus amended its complaint to challenge the updated regulations enforcing the contraception mandate. Legatus argued that the accommodations put forth in the amended regulation required the plaintiffs to provide self-certification to their insurance provider setting forth their religious objections, which in turn triggers an obligation on the part of the insurance provider to procure the services Legatus finds objectionable. Legatus is, thus, the but-for cause of providing contraception coverage. Legatus asked the court to grant a preliminary and permanent injunction against enforcement of the relevant provisions of the ACA.
On December 20, 2013, the District Court (Judge Robert H. Cleland) granted Legatus' motion for preliminary injunction. The court found that the government's proffered compelling interests of promoting public health generally and promoting gender equality, while perhaps compelling in other circumstances, were not directly related to promoting the specific interests asserted in this litigation. Likewise, the contraception mandate was not the least restrictive means of furthering that interest. Finally, the court recognized that a failure to grant a preliminary injunction would result in irreparable harm to Legatus.
On February 12, 2014, the government moved for interlocutory appeal of the district court's ruling. On May 5, 2014, the Sixth Circuit granted the the government's interlocutory appeal to consolidate this case with Ave Maria Foundation v. Sebelius
and to hold briefing in abeyance pending the resolution of Catholic Diocese of Nashville v. Sebelius , No. 13-6440 and Michigan Catholic Conference v. Sebelius
, No. 13-2373. The appeal to the Sixth Circuit has been held in abeyance since that time.
On December 31, 2014, following the Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius
, the District Court entered an injunction and judgment in favor of plaintiff Weingartz Supply Co. and owner Daniel Weingartz. The injunction prevented the government from enforcing the contraceptive coverage mandate as it existed on June 30, 2014, against Weingartz, and directed the parties to come to an agreement on attorneys' fees and costs. The ruling did not impact plaintiff Legatus' claims. On April 15, 2015, plaintiff Weingartz reached a settlement with defendants on attorney's fees and costs. As of February 29, 2016, plaintiff Legatus has not filed any further motions. Hannah Swanson - 05/27/2013
Mallory Jones - 11/26/2013
Kate Craddock - 02/29/2016