Supreme Court Order Keeps Injunction in Place in Little Sisters Case

The Supreme Court has issued the following order in the case of Little Sisters of the Poor et al. v. Sebelius:

The application for an injunction having been submitted to Justice Sotomayor and by her referred to the Court, the Court orders: If the employer applicants inform the Secretary of Health and Human Services in writing that they are non-profit organizations that hold themselves out as religious and have religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services, the respondents are enjoined from enforcing against the applicants the challenged provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and related regulations pending final disposition of the appeal by the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. To meet the condition for injunction pending appeal, applicants need not use the form prescribed by the Government and need not send copies to third-party administrators. The Court issues this order based on all of the circumstances of the case, and this order should not be construed as an expression of the Court’s views on the merits.

It’s always hard to interpret all that much from an order as short as this, but a few things are clear.

First, the injunction stays in place. The Little Sisters can just send the government a copy of their complaint. Second, and notwithstanding the final sentence of the order, at least some of the Court seems to have understood the Little Sisters’ argument–that is, that signing the certification and designation of a third party administrator to provide contraceptive products is a violation of their religious liberty under RFRA. If the Court had not understood it, or had disagreed with it, the injunction would not have remained in place. Third, and in consequence, this order represents another victory, albeit a cryptic one and one of uncertain duration, for the plaintiffs in these nonprofit cases.

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