On April 30, 2012, a family of Catholic business owners filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. The plaintiffs sued the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury under the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA"), and the Administrative Procedures Act ("APA"). The plaintiffs, represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, 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 June 8, 2012, the defendants moved to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction. The defendants argued that the plaintiffs could not claim any imminent harm because they had not shown that they could not escape enforcement by virtue of the regulations' grandfathering provision.
The plaintiffs filed an amended complaint and an amended motion for injunctive relief on June 26, 2012, detailing reasons why their insurance plan could not claim exemption from the regulations via the grandfathering provision, and why they faced imminent harm absent injunctive relief. On July 13, 2012, the U.S. moved to dismiss this amended complaint and opposing the amended injunction motion, arguing that the plaintiffs had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Specifically, the government claimed that the plaintiffs had not sufficiently alleged a substantial burden on their religious freedom, and that even if a substantial burden existed, the contraceptive coverage regulations were the least restrictive means of serving a compelling government interest in women's health and equality.
On July 27, 2012, the District Court (Judge John L. Kane) granted the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction, finding that the plaintiffs could not avoid imminent harm to their constitutional and statutory rights via either the grandfathering provision or the defendants' enforcement "safe harbor" period. Judge Kane further found that the regulations were not the least restrictive means of furthering the government's compelling interest and enjoined the defendants from enforcing the contraceptive mandate against the plaintiffs. Newland v. Sebelius, 881 F. Supp. 2d 1287 (D. Colo. July 27, 2012).
The U.S. appealed the preliminary injunction order to the 10th Circuit (Docket No. 12-01380). On October 26, 2012, District Court Judge Kane granted the plaintiffs' motion to stay the district court proceedings pending the 10th Circuit appeal. On March 29, 2013, the 10th Circuit Clerk (Elisabeth A. Shumaker) filed an order denying the defendants' motion to consolidate the case with appeal number 12-6294, Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v. Sebelius.
On October 3, 2013, without hearing oral argument, Circuit Court Judge Scott M. Matheson, Jr., affirmed the district court's decision to grant injunctive relief and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings.
On January 31, 2014, the government sought review in the Supreme Court; the petition was held 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 March 16, 2015, the District Court granted an unusually broad permanent injunction for the plaintiffs. 83 F.Supp.3d 1122. The injunction prevented the government not only from enforcing the version of the contraception mandate that existed at the time of the Hobby Lobby decision against the plaintiffs' business, but any future version of the mandate. Permanent injunctions in similar cases have limited the government only from enforcing the version of the mandate that was at issue in Hobby Lobby. The Court emphasized that the injunction did not apply beyond the particular plaintiffs in the case. In this injunction, the government bears the burden of seeking to dissolve it if it issues a version of the contraceptive services mandate that complies with the RFRA. The injunction applied to the plaintiffs' family business, Hercules Industries, and the claims of the individual plaintiffs were abated pending further action by the court.
On April 29, 2015, the parties notified the court that attorneys' fees and costs had been resolved out of court by settlement. Mallory Jones - 11/26/2013
Richard Jolly - 04/12/2014
Kate Craddock - 04/10/2016