Justice Kennedy could be key to decision on birth control

A group of people organized by the NYC Light Brigade and the women's rights group UltraViolet, use letters in lights to spell out their opinion, in front of the Supreme Court, Monday, March 24, 2014 in Washington. Holding the "H" in "Hands" at left, is Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn. The Supreme Court is weighing whether corporations have religious rights that exempt them from part of the new health care law that requires coverage of birth control for employees at no extra charge. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
A group of people organized by the NYC Light Brigade and the women's rights group UltraViolet, use letters in lights to spell out their opinion, in front of the Supreme Court, Monday, March 24, 2014 in Washington. Holding the "H" in "Hands" at left, is Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn. The Supreme Court is weighing whether corporations have religious rights that exempt them from part of the new health care law that requires coverage of birth control for employees at no extra charge. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Do profit-making businesses have religious rights?

The Supreme Court is wrestling with that question in a case that involves two family-owned companies. The owners of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties provide health insurance to their employees but object to covering certain methods of birth control — coverage that is required under the health care law. They say contraceptives that work after conception violate their religious beliefs.

The outcome could turn on the views of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who voiced concerns during today’s 90-minute arguments about the rights of female employees, as well as the rights of business owners. At one point he questioned what rights women would have if their employers required them to wear conservative Islamic robes. Later in the argument he seemed troubled about how the logic of the government’s argument would apply to abortions.

The three women on the court questioned whether blood transfusions and vaccinations would be subject to the same religious objections if the court ruled in favor of the businesses.

Chief Justice John Roberts at one point suggested the court could limit its ruling to apply to family owned companies.

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