Op-ed: What The Hobby Lobby Ruling May Mean for LGBT People

By Candace Gibson and Lauren Paulk

Originally published on Advocate.com June 23 2014 6:30 AM ET

The struggle for LGBTQ equality and the struggle for reproductive justice have long been closely allied movements and continue to share vitally important mutual interests, strategies, and aims.  

This year, for Pride month, let’s go back to our shared roots and explore the shared values and goals that have consistently formed the foundation of these movements.

Both movements are driven by a common commitment to removing political, economic, and social obstacles to leading healthy reproductive lives, including the freedom to decide if, when, and how to form families and parent children. Further, both are committed to ensuring that all people have access to the resources necessary to make these choices as freely as possible. Both believe that sexuality is something to be celebrated, regardless of whether reproduction is a desired outcome.

Because of these shared values, it is not surprising that the movements also face common threats. For example, much is at stake for both the LGBTQ equality movement and the reproductive justice movement in the Hobby Lobby case currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. A decision in that case could come any day, and it will have significant implications for all of us.

For many of us, including our LGBTQ friends and family members, a decision that grants Hobby Lobby even part of what it seeks could negatively impact our abilities to access health care and make highly personal decisions about our lives and health. For example, 57 percent of Latinas between the ages of 18-34 say that the cost of contraception can be prohibitive. If SCOTUS rules in favor of Hobby Lobby, all people, including Latinas, may have one less tool in spacing their families and planning their futures.

A negative decision could also open the floodgates of lawsuits challenging other health services that are part of the preventive health services provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and that are critical to women’s health, such as breastfeeding counseling or IPV screenings, simply because employers oppose these services. This would make it easier for cynical lawmakers who have already expressed a desire to dismantle the ACA piece by piece.   

A broad negative decision in this case could also have wide-ranging repercussions for the LGBTQ community. In addition to the fact that many LGBTQ people need access to contraception, allowing employers to rely on religious objections to prevent employees from accessing certain forms of care could have calamitous results. Business owners might attempt to rely on such objections to justify refusing to cover things like mental health services or substance abuse treatment, health issues that disproportionately impact the LGBTQ community. Moreover, employers might try to rely on such a ruling to deny other crucial benefits for their employees, such as paid sick leave for certain patients.

Additionally, a negative decision could result in an expansion of  health care refusals, state laws that already permit health care providers to refuse to provide certain necessary treatments and services because of their own personal beliefs. This would subject LGBTQ people to devastating health care discrimination, particularly around family formation and health care for transgender persons. If the decision is broad enough, employers might even attempt to challenge nondiscrimination protections in the name of religious freedom. Needless to say, the negative impact of such a development would fall most heavily on already-marginalized and vulnerable communities, including people who are LGBTQ, of color, differently abled, and living in poverty.

The Hobby Lobby case shows with vivid clarity that LGBTQ equality and the reproductive justice movements are inextricably linked. We will have plenty of opportunities to affirm this message and to stand in solidarity with each other as this case and related cases continue to be litigated. But beyond this case, as advocates for social justice, let’s continue the work of PRIDE by building bridges across movements all year long. 

 

CANDACE GIBSON is a Reproductive Justice Second Year Fellow for the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.
 

LAUREN PAULK is a Reproductive Justice Fellow for the National Center for Lesbian Rights.