Attorney Carlos A. Gamiño has been closely following the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. case since it began, and with the Supreme Court’s recent decision, all kinds of new questions are coming to light. Here’s a brief interview about the case and its outcome.
What started the Hobby Lobby case?
Attorney Carlos Gamiño: Basically, Hobby Lobby said that the Affordable Care Act, which requires employers to provide insurance that includes contraception, partially violated the First Amendment and a handful of other laws protecting religion. It’s important to note that Hobby Lobby isn’t against all forms of contraception, though; just those that they consider a form of abortion (although the forms they oppose do not cause abortion).
So what’s the controversy?
Attorney Carlos Gamiño: The controversy is, in part, due to the fact that Hobby Lobby is a corporation. Corporations are set up to separate the humans from the business – and the Hobby Lobby case gives corporations rights that you’d ordinarily only expect people to have. The Supreme Court considers Hobby Lobby a closely held corporation, which means it has a limited number of shareholders (50 percent of its shares are owned by five or fewer people).
Are there other big-name businesses that are considered closely held corporations?
Attorney Carlos Gamiño: Yes. Chick-fil-A, Cargill (the country’s largest pork supplier) and even super-giant Walmart are closely held corporations that can hold religious beliefs and are entitled to protection under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
However, that doesn’t mean that all of these large, closely held corporations are going to start asking for religious freedom. About 90 percent of all companies in the U.S. are closely held – from Toys ‘R’ Us to Koch Industries.
What are the consequences of the Supreme Court’s decision?
Attorney Carlos Gamiño: Well, Hobby Lobby doesn’t have to provide insurance coverage for the types of contraception they disagree with providing. That’s the most immediate effect. There are questions about whether a company owned by Jehova’s Witnesses can refuse coverage for organ transplants or other companies can pick and choose what they cover, but that hasn’t shaken out yet.
What we do know is that there are currently more than 80 cases pending where employers are making claims about the Affordable Care Act violating their beliefs – and we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.