OKLAHOMA CITY- After months of fighting over the legal limit of company rights, it was a winning day for the Oklahoma-based arts and craft chain Hobby Lobby.
The fight stems over a provision in the Affordable Care Act that states that employers have to provide expansive health coverage for employees.
That coverage would force companies, like Hobby Lobby, to provide birth control and morning-after-pills to female employees who wanted it.
Company founders are strongly opposed to the Plan B contraception, saying the provision violates their rights.
On Friday, the company won a preliminary injunction, meaning they have won the temporary right to deny the morning-after-pill to employees.
Last month, a district court granted the corporation a temporary restraining order against the mandate.
Walking out with that victory, Hobby Lobby’s representation gave thanks to the judge for seeing things their way.
Kyle Duncan said, “I think the judge showed during this hearing how seriously he takes these matters, how he wrestles with these matters and that’s what a judge ought to do.”
Duncan also says the tide has turned against the federal mandate.
Hobby Lobby could face fines of over $1 million a day by refusing to pay for some forms of emergency contraception for their employees.
Oklahoma’s ACLU is fighting for employees reproductive choices but admits today’s decision wasn’t a surprise.
“When the 10th circuit ruled recently on this case, it essentially set up what happened today,” says Brady Henderson, the legal director for the ACLU. “I think we anticipated it was coming.”
While excited about Friday’s victory, Hobby Lobby President Steve Green says the battle isn’t over.
Green says, “This is a great step for us but we know it is a step and there will be further discussions that we will continue to rely on Becket to help defend us in this particular case.”
Green also reinforced their strong beliefs outside the courtroom.
“This case is about life,” says Green. “Our deeply held convictions are that life begins at conception and to offer prescriptions that take life is just not an option for us. So we did not have any other option and do not have any other option but to continue to defend the religious freedoms our forefathers gave us.”
ACLU says those freedoms are not threatened by this mandate so they’re fighting for that choice to stay in the hands of the employee.
“It’s the idea that your religion as a business owner does not give you the right to discriminate against certain employees or to impose your faith on an employee’s choice,” says Henderson. “That’s really what the case is ultimately about.”
Of the over 60 cases fighting the mandate, both sides say they feel all eyes are on this one.
Duncan says, “We expect that it will have impact on the other cases that are pending around the country, so, like you all, we will wait and see what the government does. The ball is now in their court.”
Henderson says, “What is ultimately going to be decided in this case has very little to do with what happened today. It is going to be the larger substance of what is ruled legal and not about the Affordable Care Act and that’s a decision we ultimately expect to be made by the U.S. Supreme Court, not a judge here in Oklahoma.”