Capping a legal turnaround in Hobby Lobby’s case against the federal health insurance contraceptive mandate, a federal District Court judge granted a preliminary injunction to the craft retailer on Friday.
Judge Joe Heaton held a hearing Friday after the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the case for Heaton’s consideration at the end of June. Upon the 10th Circuit’s ruling, Heaton had immediately issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) to help Hobby Lobby through its July 1 deadline for facing daily fines over its insurance coverage, which includes all contraceptives but excludes the required abortifacients Plan B and Ella, as well as two intrauterine devices. TROs are in force for a very short time until a court holds a more formal hearing, so on Friday Heaton heard arguments but no new evidence, and immediately read his order from the bench granting a preliminary injunction.
“There is a substantial public interest in ensuring that no individual or corporation has their legs cut out from under them while these difficult issues are resolved,” Heaton said from the bench.
The injunction Friday was by no means a certainty: The deciding vote on the 10th Circuit on remanding the case back to District Court said he wasn’t sure whether Hobby Lobby qualified for an injunction. Unless the federal government appeals, the ruling allows courts to move forward with considering Hobby Lobby’s case on the merits in October. Federal courts at each level had denied a preliminary injunction to Hobby Lobby until the 10th Circuit’s ruling in June.