Washington, D.C. — Today, in an unsigned, unanimous opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Zubik v. Burwell, a consolidation of seven cases brought by religiously affiliated nonprofits that object to the Affordable Care Act’s accommodation to the contraception coverage mandate. The Court returned the case to the lower courts and asked for new proceedings. Furthermore, the Court did not rule on the merits of the case and may ultimately have to rehear the issue next year. Michele Jawando, Vice President for Legal Progress at the Center for American Progress, issued the following statement in response:
The Court’s decision today to punt the case back to the lower courts without a decision on the merits means that hundreds of thousands of women and their families must continue to wait for justice. The decision represents a pattern that is beginning to play out at the Supreme Court this year of declining to rule on key issues—either by deadlocking 4-4 or by sending a case back down without a decision on the merits.
Although the Supreme Court found unanimity in Zubik—in declining to issue an opinion on the merits—Americans need the U.S. Senate to do its job so that the Supreme Court justices can do theirs. Senators must act now to hold a fair hearing and an up-or-down vote on Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
The objectors in Zubik sued the government under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, claiming that the accommodation represents a substantial burden on their religious beliefs against contraception, even though the accommodation ensures that a third party—not the organizations themselves—fund and administer contraception coverage for the organizations’ employees.
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