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Bridget Johnson

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January 28, 2014 - 7:08 am

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) is leading a group of Democrats from the upper chamber in filing an amicus brief today against Hobby Lobby’s contention that it shouldn’t have to supply birth control coverage because of the owner’s religious beliefs.

The brief in support of the federal government in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., “provides an authoritative  account of the legislative history and intent underlying the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA),” according to Murray’s office. “The Senators urge the Supreme Court to reverse the Tenth Circuit’s expansion of RFRA’s scope and purpose as applied to secular, for-profit corporations and their shareholders seeking to evade the contraceptive-coverage requirement under the ACA.”

Arguments are scheduled to be heard before the Supreme Court on March 25.

“Allowing a woman’s boss to call the shots about her access to birth control should be inconceivable to all Americans in this day and age, and takes us back to a place in history when women had no voice or choice,” Murray will say in remarks prepared for a floor speech at about noon.

“What’s at stake in this case before the Supreme Court is whether a CEO’s personal beliefs can trump a woman’s right to access free or low-cost contraception under the Affordable Care Act. Every American deserves to have access to high quality health care coverage regardless of where they work. And each of us should have the right to make our own medical and religious decisions without being dictated to or limited by our employers. Contraceptive coverage is supported by the vast majority of Americans who understand how important it is for women and families.”

Joining Murray in filing the brief are Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

The brief argues, in summary, that “as Members of Congress at the time of RFRA’s debate and passage, Senator Murray and her fellow signatories are uniquely situated to explain the legislative intent underlying RFRA—that in passing RFRA, Congress did not intend to, nor did it, extend free-exercise rights to secular, for-profit corporations.”

“Similarly, as Members of Congress during the debate and passage of the ACA, Senator Murray and her colleagues are most qualified to explain how exempting secular, for-profit corporations from the ACA’s contraceptive-coverage requirement is inconsistent with the plain language and legislative intent of RFRA, and undermines the government’s compelling interest in providing women access to preventive health care under the ACA, including contraceptive-coverage.”

UPDATE: Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) office said this morning that he and Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and David Vitter (R-La.) filed an amicus brief in support of Hobby Lobby.

“The various delays and exceptions that the Administration has announced all have one effect: exempting even more health care plans from the requirements of the ACA,” the brief says. “In each instance, the beneficiaries of these exemptions are the politically powerful and well-connected. The Administration, however, refuses to grant the same leniency to those for whom the contraception mandate violates their sincere religious beliefs.”

“The ability to practice the faith we choose is one of our great Constitutional rights. The Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate stomps on that right,” said Vitter.

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.