* Companies said healthcare law violated religious beliefs
* Store chains owned by Oklahoma City's Green family
By Jonathan Stempel
Dec 26 U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia
Sotomayor has refused to block enforcement starting next week of
a requirement in President Barack Obama's 2010 healthcare
overhaul that some companies provide insurance coverage for
contraceptive drugs and devices.
In an order issued on Wednesday, Sotomayor said two
for-profit companies controlled by Oklahoma City billionaire
David Green and his family did not qualify for an injunction
while they challenge the requirement in court.
Hobby Lobby Stores Inc, an arts and crafts chain with more
than 500 stores, and Mardel Inc, a chain of 35 Christian-themed
bookstores, said it violated their religious beliefs to require
that their group health plans cover treatments that could induce
They said they face possible fines of $1.3 million a day if
they disobey the mandate, which takes effect on Jan. 1.
Sotomayor, who hears emergency appeals from the 10th
Circuit, said it was not "indisputably clear" that Hobby Lobby
and Mardel deserved an injunction, noting that lower courts have
been divided in similar cases on whether temporary relief is
"Even without an injunction pending appeal, the applicants
may continue their challenge to the regulations in the lower
courts," and following a final judgment ask the Supreme Court at
that time to consider their appeal, she said.
Sotomayor did not rule on the merits of the companies'
Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the nonprofit Becket Fund
for Religious Liberty, which represents the chains, did not
immediately respond to requests for comment. At least 42
lawsuits have been filed over the issue, the fund has said.
Hobby Lobby and Mardel claimed that the contraceptives
provision violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,
as well as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.
But on Nov. 19, Oklahoma federal judge Joe Heaton refused to
issue a preliminary injunction, saying the chains did not have
the same religious rights as Green family members. Then on
Thursday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver
refused to issue a injunction during the chains' appeal.
Forbes magazine in September called David Green, 71, the
79th richest American, with a net worth of $4.5 billion.
The case is Hobby Lobby Stores Inc et al v. Sebelius et al,
U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12A644.