Companies cannot be forced to provide their employees health insurance that covers contraception, following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling today. Florida constitutional law experts believe the ruling could have far-reaching implications beyond both birth control and federal law.
In the Hobby Lobby case, for-profit corporations were, for the first time, allowed to claim a federal law interfered with their religious practice. Previously, only individuals were able to bring claims under what’s called the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Under it, plaintiffs bringing claims must prove a law imposes a substantial burden to their religious practice. In response, a government can attempt to prove the law accomplishes a compelling state interest and it has no other avenue to achieve the goal.
University of Miami law professor Caroline Mala Corbin says the ruling will likely cause a flurry of cases by other companies—and not just those that object to birth control.
"There could be religious objections to coverage of healthcare for same-sex marriages, or anything that you might object to on a religious ground," she says.
She calls the ruling "problematic" because she says it allows people who own corporations to have their cake and eat it too.
“The owners and the corporation are considered one and the same for religious-liberty claims, but they’re considered separate and distinct when it comes to their financial liability," she says.
Mala Corbin says, because Florida has a similar religious freedom law on the books, the Hobby Lobby precedent could open the door for companies to claim state laws interfere with their religious practice as well.