| WASHINGTON, Sept 19
WASHINGTON, Sept 19 The Obama administration on
Thursday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the legality of
a politically volatile provision of the 2010 federal healthcare
law requiring employers to provide health insurance that covers
The administration wants the high court to reverse a June
decision by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver favoring
arts and crafts retailer Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. That decision
said for-profit companies can sometimes assert religious rights
if they do not wish to comply with a federal regulation.
Separately, a Christian legal group called the Alliance
Defending Freedom filed a petition on Thursday seeking review of
a different appeals court ruling in which the 3rd U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled against the employer.
The group filed on behalf of a Mennonite-owned company in
Pennsylvania, Conestoga Wood Specialties.
The fact that federal appeals courts are split on the issue
and parties on both sides want the Supreme Court to weigh in
would indicate the court is likely to decide to take up the
issue. A ruling would be expected in the court's new term, which
starts in October and ends in June 2014.
The legal question about the so-called "contraception
mandate" was not before the court when it upheld the healthcare
law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, in a June
In the government's petition in the Hobby Lobby case,
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli said the Religious Freedom
Restoration Act - which is the law cited by the company - is
designed to protect individuals and religious institutions.
He said it is not intended to be "a sword used to deny
employees of for-profit commercial enterprises the benefits and
protections of generally applicable laws."
Lawyers for Alliance Defending Freedom said in the second
petition that their clients, the Hahn family, "object as a
matter of conscience to facilitating certain contraceptives that
they believe can destroy human life."
The administration's petition is Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby
Stores, Inc., No. 13-354. The other case, which does not yet
have a number, is Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and