The birth control coverage mandate in Obamacare could be headed to the Supreme Court soon following two opposite federal appeals court rulings on whether businesses must provide contraception coverage as part of their employee insurance plans.
"I think it's likely the Supreme Court is going to end up deciding this thing, and the question is when," Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told The Hill
. The Becket Fund has organized many of the more than 60 lawsuits that are challenging the mandate.
Louise Melling, the deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, also said she believes the top court could hear oral arguments in its next term, depending on when an appeal to the top court is filed.
“I would anticipate, when there’s this much activity . . . that the court will hear one of these,” Melling told the Hill.
A federal panel of judges ruled in July
against the Mennonite owners of a Pennsylvania cabinet-making firm, which had sued to block the mandate on grounds it violated their faith. The court said the owners could not sue over a policy that applies to their company and not them directly.
The ACLU agreed with the court's ruling, saying the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not businesses.
The cabinet-makers are appealing the decision.
Meanwhile, another federal court ruled in June that the Christian owners of Hobby Lobby, a nationwide chain of arts-and-crafts stores, could proceed with their case aimed at blocking the mandate and issued a temporary restraining order that prevents the mandate from being applied to the company.
The Justice Department has not said if the Hobby Lobby ruling will be appealed.
Appeals will need to be filed by Sept. 25, legal observers said, in order to make the docket for the Supreme Court's next term.
Even if the courts agree to hear one of the cases, oral arguments likely would not take place until early 2014, after Obamacare takes effect in January.
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