Hobby Lobby Inc. was given a temporary exemption Friday from a requirement in the new federal health care law to offer insurance coverage for the morning-after pill and similar emergency birth control methods or face steep fines.
U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton issued the preliminary injunction for the Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts chain and stayed the case until Oct. 1 to give the federal government time to consider filing an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.
The ruling was welcomed by the Christian owners of Hobby Lobby and its sister company, the Mardel Christian bookstore chain. Attorneys for the Green family have argued that their religious beliefs are so deeply rooted that having to provide every form of birth control would violate their conscience.
“We’re just very excited. This is a great step for us,” Hobby Lobby president Steve Green said.
Members of the Green family say they believe life begins at conception, and oppose birth control methods that can prevent implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus, such as an intrauterine device or forms of emergency contraception.
The company offers 16 other forms of birth control mentioned in the federal health care law in its health insurance plans.
“To offer prescriptions that take life is not an option for us,” said Green, who attended Friday’s hearing with other family members and supporters.
Heaton, who rejected the companies’ request to block the mandate in November, issued the injunction less than a month after the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the companies were likely to prevail in the case. Heaton ruled last month that the company would not be subject to fines of up to $1.3 million a day for not offering the birth control methods.
There are currently 63 separate lawsuits challenging the health care law’s mandate, 34 of them involving for-profit businesses like Hobby Lobby.