Before U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor presided over the Times Square ball drop on New Year's Eve, she temporarily blocked Obamacare's contraceptive mandate from being enforced on two religious non-profits.
The Colorado- and Maryland-based Little Sisters of the Poor and Illinois-based Christian Brothers Services were granted a temporary injunction, preventing Obamacare's contraceptive mandate (which would have gone into effect on New Year's Day) from applying to these non-profits, reports Reuters.
What does Justice Sotomayor's order mean for Obamacare's enforcement?
Non-Profits Need to Be 'Self-Certified'
Under Obamacare, bona fide religious organizations are exempt from the contraceptive requirement, but non-profits which are affiliated with a religious organization are a bit of a grayer area.
To sort out some of the confusion, the federal government agreed in June to allow non-profits to "self-certify" that they were exempt from the contraceptive mandate for religious reasons. This was accomplished by filling out a government-issued form and providing it to the non-profit's insurer or health insurance plan administrator.
The Little Sisters of the Poor is a non-profit comprised of nuns; Christian Brother Services administers the Little Sisters' employee health benefits. In their application to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Little Sisters' lawyers argued that this self-certification process, requiring them to send the government-issued form to Christian Brother Services, violates the members' religious beliefs.
The question looming before the Supreme Court is whether the self-certification system itself is a substantial burden to religious liberty.
Temporary Injunction Granted: Now What?
Having weighed the non-profits' arguments and the dangers to constitutional rights, Justice Sotomayor granted the Sisters' temporary injunction. The federal government has until Friday (January 3) to respond to the injunction.
Temporary injunctions or restraining orders are -- as their names suggest -- temporary, and only are intended to last until a court sorts out the legal issues underlying the potential harm.
Sotomayor's order only affects these two non-profits and only until the Supreme Court holds a hearing on the merits of the Little Sisters' arguments. The U.S. Supreme Court already has several cases before it dealing with Obamacare's contraceptive mandate, and the issue for non-profits may be decided in one of those cases.
Although non-profits are different than for-profit companies like Hobby Lobby, both the Little Sisters and this private corporation share the belief that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment prevent the mandate from forcing them to accept Obamacare as it is.