As we all know, today the Supreme Court heard oral argument on the Hobby Lobby case, which presents the issue of whether a corporation should get away with the claim that its religious beliefs (actually, the purported religious beliefs of the current owners because, pace Mitt Romney and Citizens United, corporations are not people, my friend, and they can’t have religions) are entitled to such deference that the corporation can refuse to provide its employees with health insurance that covers birth control. Or in other words, whether Hobby Lobby’s right to swing its “religious” fist ends where its employee’s vagina begins.
As I’ve noted before, the Supreme Court (in general) chooses, with absolute discretion, which cases it hears. This court didn’t select this case (“grant cert.,” in lawyer-speak) because it wants to defend women’s right to control their own bodies.
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, arguing the government’s position, highlighted that if the Court ruled for Hobby Lobby, it would mark the first time a court granted an exemption that “extinguishe[d] the statutorily guaranteed benefits” of someone else: Hobby Lobby’s employees. As Kagan noted, “Congress has made a judgement to provide an entitlement,” in other words, the birth control coverage, “and that entitlement is to women” who are “harmed” if they are denied it. Justice Anthony Kennedy, thought to be the swing vote, asked Clement, “how would you suggest we think about the rights of employees?”, noting that their religious beliefs might not square with those of their employer. But Justice Antonin Scalia questioned whether RFRA was even intended to take into account the interests of third parties at all.
It was hard not to sense that somehow, if the coverage had been for something other than contraceptives — say, as Sotomayor pressed several times, vaccinations or blood transfusions — the question of the impact on employees might have been treated differently.
NTodd has more.
And echidne, as usual, speaks truth to power. (She’s as pessimistic as I am.)
Mr. Pierce does grok that it’s always about women’s (at first he tries to make it broader, but then the truth outs) sexuality.
Atrios explains, in his usual succinct style, what it’s really all about.
We’ll have to wait until early Summer to find out, but I’m less than enthusiastic about our chances, especially given Justice (often the swing vote) Kennedy’s questions. And, Justice Roberts needs to re-ingratiate himself with the wingnuts; this case provides him with a perfect chance.
Picture found here.