Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

On New Year's Eve, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor gave respondents until Friday to file a response to petitions filed by the state of Utah in the marriage equality case, and from the Little Sisters of the Poor in the contraceptive coverage mandate of "ObamaCare" case from Colorado. Those responses have now been filed.


Early reports from the Washington Post: Obama administration asks Justices to lift delay on birth-control rule:

The Obama administration told the Supreme Court on Friday that a group of Colorado nuns does not need a special injunction against the new health-care’s law provision providing contraceptive coverage for employees because the group can easily exempt itself from the requirement.

The government asked Justice Sonia Sotomayor to lift the temporary injunction she issued New Year’s Eve for the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Colorado nonprofit organization that provides services to the elderly. The Affordable Care Act, new provisions of which went into effect Jan. 1, requires employers who provide insurance coverage to include contraceptive services.

But nonprofit organizations such as the nuns’ may opt out of the requirement simply by certifying that they have religious objections, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. wrote in a response to Sotomayor filed Friday morning.

The “employer-applicants here are eligible for religious accommodations set out in the regulations that exempt them from any requirement ‘to contract, arrange, pay, or refer for contraceptive coverage,’ ” Verrilli wrote.

“They need only self-certify that they are non-profit organizations that hold themselves out as religious and have religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services.”

Religiously oriented nonprofit organizations around the country have objected to the requirement . . . contend[ing] that if they sign the self-certification letters, that makes them complicit in the government’s plan to provide contraceptive services, because the law provides that third-party insurers still provide the coverage.

But Verrilli said the Little Sisters case provides a weak test case. Their third-party insurer is a church plan that the government contends cannot be required to provide contraceptive services.

Justice Sotomayor could rule on the nuns’ request herself or refer the matter to the other eight justices at their January 10 Conference.

For the utter ridiculousness of this supposed religious liberty claim, Steve Benen has an exceptional analysis in A religious objection to paperwork.

As for the marriage equality case from utah, the Post reports Same-sex marriage advocates urge Justices to reject Utah’s request to stop the unions:

Same-sex marriage advocates in Utah told the Supreme Court on Friday that the state has not shown there is a sufficient reason to stop the unions while it challenges a judge’s ruling that the state’s ban is unconstitutional.

Lower courts have considered Utah’s request four times and decided that the state would suffer no irreparable harm if the marriages continue during the legal fight, wrote a lawyer for three couples who challenged the ban.

Neither the state nor the public has an interest in “enforcing unconstitutional laws or relegating same-sex couples and their families to a perpetual state of financial, legal, and social vulnerability,” wrote lawyer James E. Magleby of Salt Lake City.

The brief was filed with Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the justice designated to hear emergency requests from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, which covers Utah. She can decide the issue herself, or refer it to the full court. There is no deadline for action.

* * *

The question of whether states may ban same-sex marriage is not before the court in Utah’s request for a stay; the case concerns only whether the marriages should be stopped while the case is further litigated.

The 10th Circuit has agreed to expedited review of Shelby’s ruling, with briefs due later this month.

Nearly 1,000 legal same-sex marriages have taken place in Utah since the federal court ruling.