June 30, 2014
Today’s Supreme Court decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. can only be seen as bad news for women’s health. There can be no sugar-coating that. We extend our support to all women, including women in our LGBT community who may be affected by potential restricted access to reproductive healthcare, and to our allied organizations who work so hard to protect that access.
Anticipating the ruling, LGBT people feared that a broad decision could open the door to outright discrimination and firings as the expression of religious belief. The majority opinion avows a much narrower reach of its decision. It notes that the government has a compelling interest in creating equal opportunity in the workplace while prohibitions on discrimination are precisely tailored to achieve that “critical goal.” In such circumstances, exemptions from the law are not allowed. In addition, Justice Kennedy’s concurrence – representing the fifth vote needed by the majority – was clear that religious exercise may not “unduly restrict other persons, such as employees, in protecting their own interests, interests the law deems compelling.”
While the decision today makes clear that there is no opening for demands to be exempt from non-discrimination laws, we are very aware of the need to be vigilant. Attempts to discriminate against LGBT people are increasingly being articulated as religious expression, as in the case of GLAD’s client Matt Barrett. His offer of employment was withdrawn by Fontbonne Academy, a religiously-affiliated school, when he noted on a form that his spouse was a man. We have sued on Matt’s behalf, and we will continue to fight for him and against any and all attempts to justify discrimination against LGBT people.