Neb AG drops federal contraception ruling appeal

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska has abandoned its initial attempt to block part of the new federal health care law requiring church-affiliated employers to cover birth control for employees, but the attorney general’s office vowed to continue the fight.

The Nebraska Attorney General’s Office dropped its appeal of a federal judge’s dismissal last year of a lawsuit challenging the rule, the Lincoln Journal Star reported (http://bit.ly/19WH9xu ). Shannon Kingery, spokeswoman for Attorney General Jon Bruning, said his office is exploring the best way to challenge the law.

“We will re-engage the federal government on its trampling of religious liberties with the final rule adopted on July 1, 2013,” Kingery told the newspaper.

Bruning and Republican attorneys general in Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas sued in early 2012 to try to block the law, saying it violated the rights of employers that object to the use of contraceptives on religious grounds and also would strain state budgets. Plaintiffs also include three Nebraska-based employers affiliated with the Catholic Church, a nun and a female missionary.

The lawsuit was dismissed in July 2012 by a federal judge who said the attorneys general had no standing to bring the suit and they failed to show the rule would hamper budgets.

Catholic groups that joined the lawsuit also failed to show that a religious exemption written into the rule wouldn’t apply to them, the judge said, noting Obama administration officials had agreed to work with religious groups to try to address their concerns.

Bruning’s office and attorneys representing other parties appealed to the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case had been nearing oral arguments, but those appealing sought a voluntary dismissal earlier this month, saying they were reserving the right to bring a subsequent challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s final rules.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the case last week.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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