Fresh Unlimited Inc. won’t have to provide contraceptive coverage for its employees under the Obama administration’s health-care reform law, in what may be among the first exemptions granted since a June U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
The parent of Freshway Foods today won an appeals court ruling that qualifies it for the same treatment the high court approved in its June 30 Hobby Lobby decision, allowing family-run businesses to claim a religious exemption from the health- care law’s requirement to include contraceptives in their health insurance plans.
The suit by Francis and Philip Gilardi, who own Sidney, Ohio-based Freshway, is one of about 50 filed by for-profit businesses over religious objections to the 2010 law’s birth- control coverage mandate. The Gilardis are Roman Catholic and claimed that complying with the mandate would require them to violate deeply held religious beliefs.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington in March 2013 ruled against the Gilardis, saying that he couldn’t allow a corporation to assert the religious beliefs of individuals. The U.S. Court of Appeals reversed part of Sullivan’s decision and the ruling was put on hold pending the Supreme Court’s resolution of the Hobby Lobby case.
In addition to carving a hole in Obamacare, the Hobby Lobby ruling marked an expansion of corporate rights, allowing companies, like people, to claim religious freedom under federal law.
Today’s order sends the Freshway case back to Sullivan with instructions to issue an order granting an exemption and to consider whether to extend it to the Gilardis.
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