Supreme Court to hear two cases that could affect LGBT community

HobbyLobbyBy Lisa Keen
Keen News Service

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear two cases next week that test the degree to which employers may use their personal religious beliefs to deny certain health coverage for employees. Neither case involves any LGBT-related health coverage, but the decisions in both may affect whether employers will be able to cite religious beliefs to deny such services as alternative insemination and gender reassignment.

The cases, Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood v. HHS, involve employers asserting religious beliefs as grounds for denying health insurance coverage for birth control. Both take issue with the Affordable Care Act. Hobby Lobby challenges the ACA implementing regulations that require employer health coverage plans provide women on their plans with the “full range” of “contraceptive methods.” Those regulations also authorize an exemption for “religious employer” and “religious nonprofit organizations that have religious objections to providing coverage for some or all contraceptive services.”

“A religious employer,” noted HHS’s brief to the Supreme Court, “is defined as a non-profit organization described in the Internal Revenue Code provision that refers to churches, their integrated auxiliaries, conventions or associations of churches, and the exclusively religious activities of any religious order.”

Hobby Lobby Stores and Mardel are two stores challenging the regulations. Hobby Lobby is a national chain of arts and craft supply stores. Mardel is an affiliated chain of Christian bookstores. Both stores are owned by five people (referred to as The Greens) who excluded contraceptive coverage from the health plans for their combined 13,372 employees, saying contraception goes against their religious belief that life begins “when sperm fertilizes an egg.”

The Hobby Lobby-Mardel owners filed the lawsuit, arguing that the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act prohibits government from “substantially burden[ing] a person’s exercise of religion” unless the need to do so addresses a “compelling governmental interest” and is applied in the “least restrictive” way.

The 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled for the Hobby Lobby-Mardel, saying they do count, under the Restoration Act, as “persons exercising religion” and that requiring them to provide contraceptive coverage does “compromise their religious beliefs.”

HHS is appealing, saying the beliefs held by the owners of the two companies do not justify an exemption for the companies to a “generally applicable law that regulates only those corporations and not their individual owners.”

—  David Taffet

Insurance navigators will be at Resource Center on Saturday

GetCoveredResource Center teams with Planned Parenthood and Get Covered America to provide healthcare insurance assistance on Saturday at the Resource Center.

Navigators will help anyone needing help find a policy that is complaint with the Affordable Care Act.

Andrew Greenberg, coordinating the event for Get Covered America, said the navigators will help find insurance through the marketplace or direct people to Medicare or Medicaid, if they qualify.

Those covered at work who do not qualify for federal subsidies for their insurance, but have a partner taking advantage of DP benefits may qualify for a subsidy and receive comparable benefits at a lower out-of-pocket price.

Bring the following information:

If you desire to speak with a navigator, please bring the following:

• Birth certificate or U.S. passport

• Photo ID (driver’s license, state ID card, military ID card, school ID card)

• Social Security card

• Proof of income (paystub, income tax return, letters from Social Security)

• Employer insurance information (if applicable)

The event takes place at Resource Center, 2701 Reagan St. on Feb. 15, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Anyone who can’t attend or has additional questions about the event may contact Andrew Greenberg at 972-345-4591 or by email.

—  David Taffet

LGBT groups praise Supreme Court’s health care decision — except for Log Cabin Republicans

The Supreme Court’s decision Thursday upholding the Affordable Care Act will affect access to healthcare across the LGBT community. People will not lose their health insurance because of HIV status or other pre-existing conditions, and transgender people cannot be denied coverage.

In its decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the penalty for not buying insurance under the “individual mandate” is a tax and is therefore constitutional.

While the ACA makes insurance coverage more widely available to the LGBT community, the ruling allows states like Texas to refuse federal money to expand Medicaid to cover more people unable to afford private health insurance.

Insurance should be more accessible once statewide insurance exchanges are created, but Texas has done little to begin creating those exchanges, banking on the ACA being declared unconstitutional. State exchanges will not be allowed to discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender identity or sex.

Dallas’ AIDS Interfaith Network called the decision a “major step forward in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

In a press release, AIN wrote:

By upholding the Affordable Care Act, ensuring more individuals can obtain health insurance coverage, the Court removed a major roadblock to ending AIDS in America.

People living with HIV will have access to the reliable health coverage they need to seek and maintain continuous care, without unnecessary worrying about interrupts in care because of inadequate coverage or inability to pay.

National LGBT organizations, with the exception of Log Cabin Republicans, praised the decision.

—  David Taffet

Local briefs • 10.14.11

RCD hosts ‘The 5 Factor’

Resource Center Dallas, in partnership with Dallas Modern Luxury, presents the third annual “The 5 Factor” event on Thursday, Oct. 20, at eM the venue by Marc, 1500 Dragon St. in Dallas.

“The 5 Factor” event recognizes five of Dallas’ finest in areas such as cuisine, fashion, media and literature.

This year’s “5 Factor” honorees are journalist and award-winning author Jenny Block; Emmy Award-winning journalist Ron Corning, who recently joined WFAA Channel 8 as the host of News 8 Daybreak; Dallas restaurant owner Monica Greene of Monica’s Aca Y Alla in Deep Ellum and BEE in Oak Cliff, who recently began providing commentary on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars for WFAA; award-winning fashion designer Prashi Shah who created her own label, Prashe, and recently opened a showroom in Dallas’ Design District; and Bronwen Weber, executive chef and general manager of Frosted Art Bakery and Studio in Dallas who is perhaps best known to many for her appearances on television’s Food Network Challenge programs.

The evening will be hosted by Angela Betasso, with state Rep. Eric L. Johnson and his wife as co-chairs and last year’s honorees serving as the honorary host committee.

General admission is $50 per person, available online at The5Factor.org. Proceeds benefit the programs and services of Resource Center Dallas.

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GLAAD holds ‘Get Amped’ 5K

The local chapter of GLAAD presents Get Amped, a 5K run/walk on the Katy Trail on Thursday, Oct. 20, in conjunction with similar chapter events around the country.
Check-in begins at 5:30 p.m. at the American Airlines Center.

The starting gun goes off at 7 p.m. The celebration takes place at the finish line, also at the arena, at 9 p.m.

An after-party takes place at 9:30 p.m. at the Round-Up Saloon.

Each runner has a goal of raising $250. The money raised will benefit the national organization.

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VNA holds Service of Remembrance

The Visiting Nurse Association will host a Service of Remembrance on Sunday, Nov. 6, from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Preston Hollow United Methodist Church, 6315 Walnut Hill Lane in Dallas.

The event is open to the public and will feature special music, readings and the opportunity to light a memorial candle.

Attendees of all faiths are welcome to attend the service.

For more information call Sue Rafferty, bereavement coordinator with the Visiting Nurse Association, at 214-689-2922

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 14, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

High Tech Happy Hour at Monica’s tonight

High Tech Happy Hour, the month gay mixer sponsored by the Texas Instruments gay employees group but open to anyone (even those not in the tech field) has moved from its original location. It’ll be return to an old favorite tonight, Monica’s Aca y Alla in Deep Ellum. It’s the last one of the year, so raise a glass from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Dallas Pride: Legacy Counseling Center turns 21

Not just any birthday

Legacy Counseling Center, perhaps Dallas’ most underappreciated HIV/AIDS service provider, celebrates its 21st birthday tonight with “Legacy is Legal,” its largest annual fundraiser. The event features silent and live auctions, entertainment and, of course, food. This is one Pride week event you’ll be extra-proud to be part of. Tickets are available online or at the door.

DEETS: Monica’s Aca y Alla, 2914 Main St. 7 p.m. $35. LegacyCounseling.org/upcoming-events

—  Rich Lopez