Legislation & Lobbying

Senate Democrats work to override Hobby Lobby decision

Senate Democrats are working on legislation designed to override the Supreme Court’s recent decision exempting some for-profit corporations from having to provide mandatory contraceptive care for its employees.

Democratic Senators Patty Murray of Washington and Mark Udall of Colorado are leading the effort for to draft a bill that would guarantee insurance coverage for birth control for women, even if their employers had religious objections, reports the New York Times.

The bill does not amend or overturn the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which the five-justice majority in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. held protects closely-held corporations like Hobby Lobby from having to act against their majority owners’ religious beliefs. It would merely clarify that only churches, houses of worship and nonprofit religious charities can opt out of providing coverage for contraceptives.

“Your health care decisions are not your boss’s business,” said Murray to the Times. “Since the Supreme Court decided it will not protect women’s access to health care, I will.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said that the Hobby Lobby decision is “outrageous’ and that this bill is a top priority for the Democrats. “The one thing we’re going to do during this work period, sooner rather than later, is to ensure that women’s lives are not determined by virtue of five white men,” Reid said to reporters on Tuesday.

However, Justice Clarence Thomas, who is black, was among the five justices who were in the Hobby Lobby majority. Justice Samuel Alito was the author of the decision that was also joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Antonin Scalia, and Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Rep. Diana DeGette, a Democrat from Colorado, is co-authoring a similar bill she hopes to introduce in the U.S. House of Representatives. She and her party will face a steep uphill battle, though. According to the Times, Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, has already made it clear that he believes Hobby Lobby was a “victory for religious freedom.”

Updated at 7:41 p.m. to note Reid’s misstatement.

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