As the U.S. Supreme Court finished its docket before taking the summer off, its decision on religious beliefs of closely held companies trumping Obamacare’s mandate to providing free contraception measures for women certainly made the headlines. On a 5-4 vote, a sharply divided court rendered its decision allowing companies who objected to paying for contraceptive measures on religious grounds to opt out of such a mandate. On the surface, it would appear that the highest court of the land opened “Pandora’s Box” beyond Obamacare.
A legal precedent
A key consideration in the landmark decision is that this is the first time that the Supreme Court has declared businesses can hold religious views under federal law. While the decision offered ways in which the Obama Administration can ensure women get the birth control they want, the “bigger picture” aspect would seem to allow eligible closely held companies the opening to object to a plethora of other non-Obamacare related issues using the religious beliefs’ objection. Where this consideration may go obviously remains to be seen, but don’t be surprised if corporations jump on this opportunity to claim various exceptions under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
More than 80 percent are “closely held” companies
While the term “close held corporations” might imply a small number of companies with a relative small number of employees which potentially use this “out” to other federal laws and mandates, in reality, it represents a large number of U.S. companies and employees. According to constitutional law scholar Marci Hamilton of Yeshiva University, more than 80 percent of U.S. corporations are closely held and they could “now be able to discriminate against their employees.”
It is important to note that over 30 million women receive birth control as a result of the health law. While the Obama Administration indicated that the decision creates health risks for women and then stated, “Today’s decision jeopardizes the health of the women who are employed by these companies,” it would seem that such statements are simply politicized. Both the high court and benefits experts indicate that there are options to resolve the impact of the court’s decision relating to birth control.
Sharpen up those questions
Now that the Colorado Primary Election is behind us and the campaign races are in full swing for the November election, it is a good time to pin down the candidates on a variety of issues. We all should do our homework on the candidates and in particular find out their stance on those issues which are “near and dear” to you.
Let’s start with Jefferson County expanding to five Commissioners. Since the petition drive fell short of putting this proposal on the ballot for 2014, the Board of Commissioners could place it on the ballot in 2015. Then we have the Adams County Sheriff’s race. Where do the two candidates stand on removing the municipal prisoner cap of 30 prisoners at the Adams County Jail? It is past due to eliminate this and have the Sheriff use already appropriated funds to staff another jail pod. Of course, we should ask Mark Udall and Cory Gardner a bunch of key questions, but I will save that topic for a future column. How about county home rule for Adams County? This is a subject that could come up over the next 2 years, so let’s ask all of the candidates who are seeking election including incumbent Erik Hanson. We will point out other salient questions which you might wish to ask candidates as the campaign season “ripens.”