By Chris Hoenig
Does the U.S. Supreme Court have a “blind spot” for women and women’s rights One justice thinks so.
In a wide-ranging interview with Yahoo!’s Katie Couric, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she believes the court’s conservative justicesall of whom are malefurther revealed a “blind spot” for women in the Hobby Lobby case, which allows private employers to withhold healthcare coverage of contraceptives based on the owner’s personal religious beliefs.
“The same kind of blind spot the majority had in the Lilly Ledbetter case,” Ginsburg said, referring to the 2007 Supreme Court decision, which placed restraints on equal-pay and gender-discrimination lawsuits.
“Contraceptive protection is something that every woman must have access to control her own destiny,” Ginsburg told Couric. “I certainly respect the belief of the Hobby Lobby owners. On the other hand, they have no constitutional right to force that belief on the hundreds and hundreds of women who work for them who don’t share that belief.
“I had never seen the free exercise of religion clause interpreted in such a way.”
The issue, Ginsburg said, isn’t whether corporations should be treated like people, but rather ensuring the individual freedoms of all employees.
“One has freedom to move one’s arm,” she explained, citing her dissent filed in the Hobby Lobby case, “until it hits the other fellow’s nose. And it’s the same way with speech, same way with religion.”
Ginsburg’s 35-page dissent of the decision blasted the conservative majority’s decision quickly went viral. In it, she noted the court’s constant shortsightedness on religious issues, including ignoring the fact that corporations, by law, are prohibited from using religion-based criteria in hiring a workforce.
“The distinctionbetween a community made up of believers in the samereligion and one embracing persons of diverse beliefs, clearas it is, constantly escapes the court’s attention,” she wrote.”Onecan only wonder why the court shuts this key differencefrom sight.”
In her interview with Couric, Ginsburg said that shortsightedness also extended to understanding the importance of women’s rights and the consequences of their ruling.
“Justices continue to think and can change, so I am ever hopeful that if the court has a blind spot today, its eyes will be open tomorrow,” she said of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, the five conservative justices who voted with Hobby Lobby. Justice Stephen Breyer, a Clinton appointee, was the only male justice to join Ginsburg and Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan in the dissent.
“They have wives, they have daughters,” Ginsburg said. “By the way, I think daughters can change the perception of their fathers.”