A federal judge has denied a request by a Highland construction company who wanted to block the Affordable Care Act because it violates the owners' religious freedoms by requiring their health insurance company to cover birth control.
U.S. District Judge Michael Reagan on Friday declined to issue the injunction requested by Korte & Luitjohan Contractors, Inc.
Cyril and Jane Korte, the owners, and Korte & Luitjohan Contractors, Inc., filed an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on Monday. Both sides have asked for a stay in the East St. Louis case until the appeal is decided.
The Seventh Circuit will also be asked to issue an injunction pending appeal, said the Kortes' attorney, Edward L. White, of the American Center for Law and Justice.
Reagan found the Kortes failed to show they would likely win on the merits of their argument and they would suffer irreparable harm if the injunction wasn't issued.
The Kortes are practicing Catholics, whose company employees 90 full-time employees. The company provides health insurance as a benefit to the employees.
The Affordable Care Act requires group health plans to provide contraceptive methods, including "Plan B," which prevents fertilization of the egg and "Ella," which stops or delays release of the egg. Under the Affordable Care Act, the company could be forced to pay $730,000 annually in taxes or penalties if it failed to offer the coverage.
The Kortes' lawyers argued that, besides the penalties for non-compliance, they would be placed at a competitive disadvantage in the business marketplace. They argued they did not want to impose their religious beliefs on others, but they also did not want to be forced to sponsor a health plan contrary to their religious beliefs.
Reagan noted the company's current health insurance plan already covers contraception.
The Department of Justice countered that the corporation was a secular, for-profit business, not a person, and could not exercise religion.
Previous court decisions found that Korte & Luitjohan, a corporation, did have a right to exercise political speech, but weren't clear on whether a secular company had the right to exercise freedom of religion, Reagan wrote.
The Kortes filed the lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the U.S. Department of Labor and their respective secretaries in October.
This is one of 42 other lawsuits filed around the country to block the Affordable Care Act, according to White.
"We are very hopeful that we are going to be successful," White said.