The Center For Inquiry
Today the Court made clear it does not view Americans’ access to medically necessary health care as a compelling government interest, and announced loud and clear that the religious preferences of employers take preference over the health needs of workers. In making its decision, the Supreme Court also made a determination that will cause significant confusion in church-state litigation for years to come. The majority held that small, closely held, for-profit private corporations have standing to sue under RFRA – in other words, that such corporations have the religious beliefs of their owners, and the same right to free exercise as their owners. “The potential effects of this decision are absolutely chilling, setting a precedent that is sure to reverberate far beyond the issue of contraceptive coverage,” said Ronald A. Lindsay, President and CEO of the Center for Inquiry. “This is not a decision that advances religious freedom – it is a decision that enshrines religious privilege over and above employee well-being,” added Lindsay. “This decision defies common sense, lacks compassion, and has the potential to harm us all.”
Human Rights Campaign
“Religious groups have a long-established first amendment ability to operate according to their own beliefs,” said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “Instead of protecting religious liberty, this ruling gives license for businesses to use their personal beliefs as a reason to deny people access to basic, yet crucial medical services.” HRC remains hopeful that the Court’s limitation in this case will be extended to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. We will remain vigilant in the event business owners attempt to use this decision to justify other forms of discrimination, including against LGBT people. In the immediate aftermath, some members of the LGBT community will feel the effects of this decision; countless lesbian and bisexual women as well as some transgender men rely on contraception. HRC will continue to work closely with our partners in the women’s and reproductive health movements, as well as other LGBT groups, as this issue continues to be debated.
National Gay & Lesbian Task Force
This is a dangerous precedent from the Court — which could leave women in limbo for their basic health care. Under the ruling, some corporations will be treated like religious institutions and these so-called ‘religious corporations’ will not have to pay for health care that they disagree with. So what happens if a woman needs birth control and their employers won’t pay? What happens if a trans woman needs hormones and their bosses won’t pay? What happens if a couple needs fertility treatments and the ‘religious corporation’ they work for won’t pay? Yet again, another barrier put in the way of vital and affordable health care.
NARAL Pro-Choice America
Today’s decision from five male justices is a direct attack on women and our fundamental rights. This ruling goes out of its way to declare that discrimination against women isn’t discrimination. Allowing bosses this much control over the health-care decisions of their employees is a slippery slope with no end. Every American could potentially be affected by this far-reaching and shocking decision that allows bosses to reach beyond the boardroom and into their employees’ bedrooms. The majority claims that its ruling is limited, but that logic doesn’t hold up. Today it’s birth control; tomorrow it could be any personal medical decision, from starting a family to getting life-saving vaccinations or blood transfusions. Ninety-nine percent of women use birth control at some point in our lives, and none of those stories made it into the arguments. It’s outrageous that these five male justices chose to single out birth control for special discrimination. NARAL’s message has always been clear: bosses who want control over their employees’ personal medical decisions are offensive, out of touch, and out of bounds, and so is this ruling. We call upon Congress to right this wrong, and we will work tirelessly with our allies and member activists to make sure that the people who would stand between a woman and her doctor are held accountable.
Today’s majority ruling disregards decades of case law that drew a protective line between free religious expression and religious dominance of others. It is a radically dangerous decision that invites more misguided actions contrary to essential protections for employees, customers and the public. It is imperative that the U.S. Congress amend the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act to withdraw the blessing the Court mistakenly has given these companies to impose their beliefs on working women. Today’s ruling is about the ACA and women’s reproductive health and rights, but some may mistake this narrow ruling as a wide open door for religious liberty exemptions from other statutes that protect employees and the public. Today’s opinion says doing so would be incorrect. However, recent mistreatment of LGBT people in employment and other commercial settings still makes this extremely troubling. A business owner’s religious objection to a worker’s same-sex spouse or a customer’s LGBT identity is not acceptable grounds for discrimination. It is more important than ever that states and Congress enact strong, clear nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people.
National Center for Lesbian Rights
The majority’s holding that closely held corporations can claim religious liberty protections designed for individuals—and can rely on those protections to avoid complying with generally applicable laws—is a dangerous and radical departure from existing law that creates far more questions than it answers and shows a callous disregard for the health care needs of women workers. Thankfully, however, the majority recognized that even under its sweeping new rule, corporations cannot rely on claims of religious liberty to evade non-discrimination laws. That limitation is extremely important and means that employers cannot exploit today’s decision to justify non-compliance with laws that prohibit discrimination against LGBT people and other vulnerable groups, but we will need to be vigilant to make sure that principle is respected and enforced.