District Court Grants Preliminary Injunction in Contraception Mandate Challenge

Another victory (though perhaps only temporary) for plaintiffs challenging the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate under RFRA. A federal district court in Michigan has granted a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the mandate against a for-profit corporation whose owners object to complying with the mandate because of their Catholic beliefs. According to Judge Robert Cleland, neither the corporation nor the government had made a strong showing of success on the merits: the mandate might be the least restrictive means of achieving a compelling state interest, but the question was close. Given the religious freedom concerns here, however, the balance tipped in favor of granting the preliminary injunction, in order to avoid irreparable harm to plaintiffs while the case continued. The court dismissed a challenge to the mandate brought by a non-profit Catholic organization on the ground that the organization fit within a temporary regulatory safe-harbor and had not yet suffered a cognizable injury. The case is Legatus v. Sebelius, 2012 WL 5359630 (E.D. Michigan, Oct. 31, 2012).

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