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Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of Hobby Lobby In Narrow Decision

HobbyThe U.S. Supreme Court today ruled today that businesses can object on religious grounds to providing contraceptive coverage to its employees as mandated by the Affordable Care Act, The Chicago Tribune reports. The decision came down to a 5-4 vote, with the justices dividing along ideological lines:

In a majority opinion by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, the court said the ruling applies only to the birth control mandate and does not mean companies would necessarily succeed if they made similar claims to other insurance requirements, such as vaccinations and drug transfusions.

In the majority opinion, Alito indicated that employees could still be able to obtain the birth control coverage via an accommodation to the mandate that the Obama administration has already introduced for religious-affiliated nonprofits. The accommodation allows health insurance companies to provide the coverage without the employer being involved in the process.

Under the accommodation, eligible non-profits must provide a "self certification", described by one lower court judge as a "permission slip" authorizing insurance companies to provide the coverage. The accommodation is itself the subject of a separate legal challenge.

As Towleroad contributor Lisa Keen previously pointed out, The Hobby Lobby case is of particular concern from an LGBT perspective because some have believed that a ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby could later be used by employers seeking exemptions on religious grounds from providing health benefits to LGBT employees “such as coverage for the same-sex spouses or partners of employees, reproductive services for lesbian couples, testing and treatment for men at risk of HIV infection, [and] transgender treatment for people with gender dysphoria.” 

Stay tuned for Towleroad legal analyst Ari Ezra Waldman’s in-depth analysis of the Hobby Lobby ruling later today.

You can find previous coverage from Ari on Hobby Lobby and why this ruling matters HERE and HERE

(Image via Twitter)


Obamacare, Religious Exemptions, and Gay Rights: Hobby Lobby at the Supreme Court Today

By ARI EZRA WALDMAN

SupremesToday, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments in a case about Obamacare. The last time that happened, the Court determined by a bare 5-4 majority that the so-called individual mandate, the requirement that everyone has to buy health insurance or pay a tax, was constitutional. Now, the Court is considering whether corporations can refuse to provide insurance plans that include contraception if doing so would violate the religious beliefs of those corporations' owners.

This matters, not just to those of us in need of health care and not just to those of us who work for companies run by religious people. It matters to all LGBT Americans because the scope of this particular religious exemption could affect the scopes of other religious exemptions.

The cases -- Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius -- will determine the breadth of the religious exemption from Obamacare. Unfortunately, the pretext of religious freedom has gained much traction of late in justifying continued discrimination. And this Court's conservative majority has set itself up to strike a blow against equality.

AFTER THE JUMP, I will construct the argument I expect the Court's conservatives will use to expand the religious exemption. I will show how that argument is deeply flawed. And then I will show how dangerous it is for the LGBT community.

Continue reading "Obamacare, Religious Exemptions, and Gay Rights: Hobby Lobby at the Supreme Court Today" »


U.S. Dept. Of Health: Some U.S. Health Insurances Must Cover Same-Sex Couples By 2015

This past Friday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' health care blog published a post by Matthew Heinz MD — Director of Provider & LGBT Outreach — stating that by 2015 any insurance companies offering coverage to opposite-sex spouses must also do the same for same-sex spouses:

HealthcaregovToday, we are clarifying that, starting next year, if an insurance company offers coverage to opposite-sex spouses, it cannot choose to deny that coverage to same-sex spouses. In other words, insurance companies will not be permitted to discriminate against married same-sex couples when offering coverage. This will further enhance access to health care for all Americans, including those with same-sex spouses.

This will undoubtedly clear up cases like the ones in which Blue Cross and Anthem denied coverage for same-sex couples under the ambiguous provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Although according to HuffPo Gay Voices, this only applies to "Qualified Health Plans... that meet the minimum standards of the Affordable Care Act and are certified by the state or federal exchange where it is purchased."


Gay Couple Files Federal Suit in Ohio After Being Denied Coverage Under Obamacare

Earlier this week a gay couple in Ohio filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. government and state of Ohio after being denied coverage under Obamacare, Reuters reports:

OhioThe plaintiffs, Alfred Cowger and Anthony Wesley of Gates Mills, Ohio, have been together since 1986 and were married in New York state in 2012, six years after adopting a daughter, according to the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Ohio...

...After initially being unable to enroll in Obamacare because of glitches involving the troubled rollout of the healthcare.gov website, they said in the suit that they were assured by Anthem they could remain under its policy after December 2013, although premiums would increase by about 20 percent.

But in November, according to the suit, Cowger said he received a letter from Anthem stating their policy "was to be terminated because it was not in compliance with the ACA."

A new family policy with Anthem would cost about twice their existing one, or about half the family's joint income, and not be eligible for tax credits under Obamacare.

Full story here.


Blue Cross Reverses Course in NC After Canceling Coverage to Gay Couples Under Obamacare

BCBSNC-CrossShieldNC

Responding to outrage after it canceled health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act for nearly two dozen same-sex married couples in North Carolina because the state doesn't recognize such marriages, Blue Cross and Blue Shield has decided to reverse course, the News Observer reports:

The insurer said Wednesday it will now offer family coverage for same-sex couples and unmarried couples, and will also extend the benefit to small businesses for the first time.

In mid-January, Blue Cross systematically canceled 20 family policies and notified the affected customers they would have to reapply as unmarried single individuals. Some were married legally in other states and feared they would be required to lie on an insurance application form by denying their marriage.

The controversy rattled Blue Cross, the state’s largest insurer, and created a sense of embarrassment among many employees. CEO Brad Wilson extended a public apology in the company’s announcement. “We should have more thoughtfully considered this decision, with full appreciation of the impact it would have on same-sex married couples and domestic partners,” Wilson said. “We’re sorry we failed to do so.”

More at the News Observer...


News: Stephen Amell, Obamacare, Denzel Washington, El Salvador


Amell
RoadStephen Amell covers up the goods for an impromptu Christmas card posted to the actor's Instagram.

RoadKanye's keyboard will appreciate the break.

RoadShe's just being Miley.

RoadCybill Shepherd to guest star on Trophy Wife.

RoadDecember saw a surge in sign-ups on healthcare.gov, passing the 1 million mark, according to the Obama administration: "Combined with numbers for state-run markets due in January, that should put total enrollment in the new private insurance plans under President Barack Obama's health law at about 2 million people through the end of the year, independent experts said. That would be about two-thirds of the administration's original goal of signing up 3.3 million by Dec. 31, a significant improvement given the technical problems that crippled the federal market during much of the fall. The overall goal remains to enroll 7 million people by March 31."

RoadDenzel Washington rumored to be playing the Green Lantern in the new Superman vs. Batman movie.

RoadMichael Fassbender mugs for British GQ.

RoadThe year in scandals.

RoadProstitute mistakenly texts on duty police officer in wrong number epic fail. 

RoadGOP megadonor Harold Simmons has died: "Simmons’s spending was not confined to Republican political candidates: His foundation gave $600,000 to Planned Parenthood and a Texas affiliate in 2011, according to CPI, and the same amount to a Dallas LGBT center this year, according to the Dallas Morning News."

Pin RoadA very apropos 'You Can Play' pin.

RoadThe (fan-created) Frozen reprise that might have been but never was.

RoadSpeaking of, the animated film has done equally well overseas and here in the US according to Deadline, raking in $243.5M abroad and $491.8M globally.

RoadChaparrastique volcano erupts in El Salvador, thousands flee.

RoadNY Times asks: What does the way you speak say about you?


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