The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

November 9, 2013

18 state AGs to Supremes: Hear Conestoga case

— BEAVERTOWN — Nearly one year after it filed a federal lawsuit challenging the birth-control mandate included in the Affordable Care Act, the owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties are taking their fight to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Mennonite-owned company, based in Lancaster County with operations in Beavertown and Beaver Springs, has filed a brief encouraging the Supreme Court to hear its argument following the government’s attempt to dissuade justices from accepting the case.

Conestoga filed the lawsuit in December, saying it would “be sinful and immoral” to participate in the birth-control mandate, which requires most employers to offer health insurance that covers contraceptives, the complaint said.

Since filing the lawsuit, Conestoga has been repeatedly denied the injunction that would prevent it from being forced to include birth-control coverage in its health-care plan. If it fails to offer the coverage, the company faces a daily fine of $95,000 — $100 for each of its 950 employees.

The latest loss for the company was in July, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit declined to issue an injunction.

The Conestoga case would be better for the court to hear than the Hobby Lobby case because of the difference between the two companies, with Hobby Lobby a major corporation and Conestoga a family-run business, the brief states.

“This case poses essentially the same question presented in Hobby Lobby: Whether the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive-coverage mandate violates the free exercise rights of families and their closely-held businesses,” the court document reads.

Conestoga is also receiving help from a friend-of-the-court brief filed by 18 states encouraging the Supreme Court to hear the case. Pennsylvania is not one of the states to join in the brief.

“The states also seek to foster a robust business climate in which diverse employers can succeed to the benefit of all: The states have an interest in the businesses and jobs that the harsh penalties of the mandate threaten to eradicate,” the brief reads.

States whose attorney generals signed the brief are Nebraska, Montana, Georgia, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Alaska, Kansas, Ohio, Alabama, Idaho, Oklahoma, Virginia, Texas, West Virginia, South Carolina, South Dakota and

Michigan.

There is no time line for the Supreme Court’s decision on whether to hear the case.

Craft megastore Hobby Lobby in July was granted an injunction by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. The company now seeks clarification on the matter from the Supreme Court.

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