The California Report: Hobby Lobby Decision Has Limited Impact in California

By April Dembosky

Most women in California won’t be affected by Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court landmark decision in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby. The Christian owners of the craft store chain challenged the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that companies provide contraception coverage to their employees. The Court ruled that closely-held, for-profit companies can opt out if they object on religious grounds.

But it’s not so easy in California. That’s because the ruling doesn’t apply to state laws. California has had the Women’s Contraceptive Equity Act on the books since 1999. It requires health insurance companies that cover prescription drugs to also cover birth control.

“For most workers in California, nothing will change,” says Maggie Crosby, attorney with the ACLU of Northern California. “Women should feel secure that if they have birth control coverage today, they will have it tomorrow.”

She says the state law is still in full effect after Monday’s Supreme Court ruling.

“If there is anything that is not the boss’ business, it is whether an employee uses contraception,” she says. “That is the rule in California.”

More than two dozen other states have similar laws, including Texas, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Those state laws stick because of the legal reasoning on which the Court based its ruling. Lawyers for Hobby Lobby argued the company could claim religious rights under a federal law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the First Amendment of the Constitution.

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