A federal appeals court has ruled the contraception coverage mandate in the Affordable Care Act violates the free exercise of religion.
The ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit adds to the debate about a provision that factored heavily in the 2012 presidential election and comes amid an effort by President Barack Obama to fill three open slots on the powerful D.C. Circuit with his own nominees. Senate Republicans are blocking those picks, which has Democrats considering whether to use the "nuclear option" to install Obama's judges.
Similar cases have been brought across the country, and split decisions with other circuits suggest the issue will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court.
The case was brought by Francis and Philip Gilardi, the equal owners of Freshway Foods and Freshway Logistics.
"As adherents of the Catholic faith, the Gilardis oppose contraception, sterilization, and abortion. Accordingly, the two brothers — exercising their powers as owners and company executives — excluded coverage of products and services falling under these categories," the court wrote.
But that's not kosher under the Affordable Care Act as applied by the Obama administration.
"They can either abide by the sacred tenets of their faith, pay a penalty of over $14 million, and cripple the companies they have spent a lifetime building, or they become complicit in a grave moral wrong," the court wrote.
The 2-1 decision was written by Janice Rogers Brown, an appointee of President George W. Bush.
Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.