Yesterday, May 22nd, I had the privilege to present oral argument before the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, based in Chicago, on behalf of our clients in Korte v. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
Korte is one of the seven lawsuits the American Center for Law & Justice (“ACLJ”) has filed challenging the HHS Mandate.
The Mandate requires many employers to arrange and pay for employee health insurance that covers contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and related education and counseling.
If an employer refuses to comply with the Mandate, the employer faces significant fines and penalties. Many employers are exempted for various reasons, but there is no exemption for businesses that are operated by individuals with religious objections to arranging and paying for the required coverage.
Here, we represent Cyril and Jane Korte, a husband and wife, and their family-owned construction company, Korte & Luitjohan Contractors, Inc. The Kortes seek to manage and operate their Illinois company pursuant to their Catholic faith.
Their Catholic faith prevents them from arranging for, paying for, providing, and otherwise supporting employee health insurance coverage that provides the products and services required by the Mandate, except in limited circumstances.
If they follow their faith and do not provide such coverage, the federal government will impose annual fines of approximately $730,000.
This past October, we filed a motion asking the federal trial court to enter a preliminary injunction to prevent enforcement of the Mandate, which would have applied to the Kortes and their company on January 1, 2013, when their employee health plan had to be renewed.
The trial court denied our motion in December, and we immediately appealed that decision to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. We also filed an emergency motion for injunctive relief to stop application of the Mandate before January 1st.
In late December, the Seventh Circuit granted the emergency motion, which permitted the Kortes to comply with their faith while the Seventh Circuit considers our appeal of the trial court’s denial of the preliminary injunction motion. In that regard, we filed our opening brief on appeal this past January and our reply brief in March.
The oral argument before the Seventh Circuit, the audio of which you can listen to here, was an additional opportunity for us to present our case to the appellate court and, in particular, to answer any questions of the three judges who will be deciding the case.
We now await the Seventh Circuit’s written decision, which we anticipate will be issued in the coming months.
We will continue to keep you informed about this and the other important cases in which we are involved against the HHS Mandate.
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