U.S. Supreme Court

Sotomayor stays health law's contraceptive mandate in nuns' case

Justice Sonia Sotomayor granted a stay of the health care law’s contraceptive mandate on Tuesday to a group of Catholic nuns who claimed they would face “draconian fines” beginning on Jan. 1 if they did not comply.

Sotomayor issued the stay a few hours before she led the Times Square ball-drop countdown on New Year’s Eve, report the New York Times, the Associated Press, SCOTUSblog and the Los Angeles Times. The stay applies to a group of nuns in Colorado known as Little Sisters of the Poor as well as other Catholic nonprofits that use the same health plan, the New York Times says.

Sotomayor told the federal government to file a response by 10 a.m. on Friday.

The Obama administration had offered an accommodation for religiously affiliated nonprofits that would shift payment for contraceptive coverage to their insurance plans or the plans’ outside administrators, which would then be reimbursed, AP says. The lawyer for the nuns told AP that, despite the exemption, his clients would still have to sign a form authorizing their insurer to provide coverage, and that would violate their religious beliefs.

The federal government did not grant an exemption to for-profit companies whose owners have religious objections to the contraceptive requirement. The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide the constitutional issue in challenges filed by two companies.

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