A federal court on Friday ruled against the Obama administrationâ€™s birth control mandate, the first court to side with its opponents. The decision isnâ€™t final, but the move could represent a breakthrough for conservatives determined to overturn the regulation made possible by the Affordable Care Act.
A federal district judge in Colorado issued a temporary injunction permitting Hercules Industries, an air-conditioning company based in the state, not to abide by the rule until the courts reach a decision on the merits of the case. The business owner, a Catholic who opposes contraception, argued that the mandate violates his religious liberty.
Carter-appointed Judge John KaneÂ ruledÂ (PDF) that Hercules raised serious enough questions about the validity of the mandate under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to be given injunctive relief. The 1993 law says the government may not â€œsubstantially burden a personâ€™s exercise of religionâ€ â€” that laws that clash with religious freedoms be justified by compelling government interest and be narrowly tailored to meet that interest.
Kane made it clear that the temporary injunction only applies to Hercules.
â€œThis injunction is, however, premised upon the alleged substantial burden on Plaintiffsâ€™ free exercise of religion â€” not to any alleged burden on any other partyâ€™s free exercise of religion,â€ he wrote in his opinion. â€œIt does not enjoin enforcement of the preventive care coverage mandate against any other party.â€
Numerous entities have unsuccessfully sued to block the contraception rule. The Colorado courtâ€™s move could yet be anticlimactic if it ends up validating the requirement on the merits. But if not, the ruling portends a series of legal fights that might end up in the Supreme Court.
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