POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Protesters came out in full force Tuesday as the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case pitting employers’ religious beliefs against the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate.
As CBS 2’s Diane Macedo reported, the demonstrations were not just limited to the nation’s capital. Protesters on both sides also appeared outside the Hobby Lobby in Poughkeepsie.
They demonstrated as the retailer’s Christian owners argued before the Supreme Court Tuesday for the right to limit birth control coverage for their employees.
“Our family started Hobby Lobby built on our faith, and together as a family,” Hobby Lobby owner Barbara Green said in Washington. “We’ve kept that tradition for more than 40 years, and we want to continue to live out our faith in the way we do business.”
The arts and crafts chain is so devout that its stores are closed on Sundays, it plays Christian music for shoppers, and it refuses to sell items like shot glasses.
But Hobby Lobby and its supporters said the Affordable Care Act is now violating its religious rights by forcing the company to provide employees with health coverage for all forms of birth control – including IUDs and morning after pills.
“We don’t think that Hobby Lobby should be paying for this,” said Ella Mae Hedgepeth.
But the opposition argued that corporations do not have religious rights, and the limitation violates women’s rights.
“I have a daughter, and I don’t want her in a position where she can’t ever get birth control if she needs it,” said Julia Kessler.
In addition to what the case could mean for Hobby Lobby and its employees, parties on both sides are also worried about the precedent this case could set — not only when it comes to birth control, but a host of other issues as well.
“This is a slippery slope,” one woman said. “A boss shouldn’t be able decide what healthcare insurance you get. What about mental health care? What about a blood transfusion? This has large potential ramifications.”
But protester Art Nicholson argued from the other side, saying a ruling demanding that Hobby Lobby cover all forms of birth control could be a slippery slope.
“If they’re forced to do this they could be forced to do other things,” Nicholson said. “We have a constitution that protects us from that, which is simply not being paid attention to.”
In addition to Hobby Lobby, about 50 other for-profit companies are also suing for a religious exemption by the contraceptive rule.
The court is expected to issue a ruling by late June.
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