TIME politics

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Male Justices Have ‘Blind Spot’ About Women

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the taping of "The Kalb Report" at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. on April 17, 2014.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the taping of "The Kalb Report" at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. on April 17, 2014. Alex Wong—Getty Images

Notorious R.B.G strikes again

In the wake of the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby ruling, which allows religious employers to deny birth control coverage to female employees, Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the male justices in the majority have a “blind spot” about women’s issues.

“Do you believe that the five male justices truly understood the ramifications of their decision?” Katie Couric asked Ginsburg in a Yahoo interview.

“I would have to say no,” Ginsburg replied.

“But justices continue to think and change. They have wives. They have daughters,” she continued. “By the way, I think daughters can change the perception of their fathers. I am ever hopeful that if the court has a blind spot today, its eyes will be open tomorrow.”

But will Ginsburg still be on the court tomorrow? Some liberals are urging Ginsburg, 81, to retire so President Obama can fill her seat with another Democrat.

“All I can say is that I am still here and likely to remain for a while,” she said.

So it looks like Notorious R.B.G is here to stay, and now she finally knows about her nickname. Couric asked her about the Tumblr a female fan created that compares Ginsburg to the rapper Notorious B.I.G.

“She has created a wonderful thing with Notorious R.B.G.,” Ginsburg said. “I will admit I had to be told by my law clerks, what’s this Notorious. And they — they explained that to me.”

TIME wedding

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Responds Perfectly to Fan’s Wedding Invite

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg makes remarks during a forum at the Newseum to mark the 30th anniversary of the first female Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's first term on the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, April 11, 2012.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg makes remarks during a forum at the Newseum to mark the 30th anniversary of the first female Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's first term on the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, April 11, 2012. Mike Theiler—REUTERS

The Notorious R.B.G. knows how to RSVP

Inviting celebrities to your wedding is nothing new—Peyton Manning and the Obamas seem to be popular choices. But Staci Zaretsky, editor at Above the Law, took it to the next level by asking if Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would attend her nuptials.

Justice Ginsburg—or as Zaretsky and her fiancé affectionately call her, “The Notorious R.B.G.”— has long been an idol of Zaretsky.

“My fiancé and I decided to invite everyone who had ever made an impact on our lives, big or small,” Zaretsky wrote in an article for Above the Law. “To stay true to the way we invited all of our guests, I wanted to invite the justice who made the biggest impact on my life.”

But when she sent a handwritten letter and wedding invitation to Ginsburg, she didn’t anticipate a response, let alone a personal note.

This is the letter Staci Zaretsky received from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg responding to Zaretsky's wedding invitation.
This is the letter Staci Zaretsky received from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg responding to Zaretsky’s wedding invitation. Staci Zaretsky—Above the Law

Ginsburg has surely made an impact on the lives of many as an advocate for women across the country. In the June 30 5-4 ruling of the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby case, she made her feelings clear:

“Approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be ‘perceived as favoring one religion over another,’ the very ‘risk the [Constitution's] Establishment Clause was designed to preclude” wrote the the Justice.

Regardless of your stance on the Hobby Lobby decision, there’s no arguing that Ginsburg is a powerful woman, and now, a most gracious wedding guest.

 

TIME Crime

Arizona Execution Will Move Forward After Last-Minute Appeals

Lethal Injection Execution
Walls Unit in Huntsville prison where lethal injections are carried out on inmates in Huntsville, Texas. Jerry Cabluck—Sygma/Corbis

The court, reluctant to step into the battle over lethal injection, denies a constitutional challenge by Arizona death row inmate Joseph Wood over the secrecy of execution drugs

Updated at 3 p.m. E.T. Wednesday

A rare victory for a death row inmate over the weekend was quashed Tuesday when the Supreme Court lifted a stay of execution for Joseph Wood, who was sentenced to death for the murder of his girlfriend and her father in 1989.

In a three-sentence order, the Supreme Court reversed a judgment by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that halted Wood’s execution based on the secrecy surrounding where the state obtains the drugs to carry out lethal injection. About a half-hour after Wood was scheduled to be executed, Arizona’s top court announced that it had temporarily halted the execution on appeals. Wood’s lawyers said he did not have proper legal representation. They also claimed that Arizona’s “experimental” lethal injection methods, which include drugs like midazolam that have been used in executions that have gone awry in other states, would violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. But that stay was lifted Wednesday afternoon after the court heard last-minute appeals from Wood’s lawyers, clearing the way for Wood to be executed by lethal injection.

Death row inmates around the U.S. have challenged the constitutionality of their lethal injections, often arguing that the laws and policies shielding drug manufacturers’ identities are unconstitutional. Due to drug shortages and boycotts by pharmaceutical companies, many states in the last few years have obtained lethal injection drugs from compounding pharmacies, which are unregulated by the federal government.

Courts around the country have been largely unreceptive to those arguments. Wood’s case, however, was an exception.

Wood’s lawyers asked the state to halt his execution if it did not provide the origins of the drugs as well as the qualifications of the executioners, relying not on an Eighth Amendment argument regarding the risk of cruel and unusual punishment, but rather a First Amendment defense that Wood had a right to access information about his execution. A U.S. District Court judge in Phoenix initially denied the request, but the Ninth Circuit sided with Wood.

The court denied appeals by the state to lift the stay, sending the case to the Supreme Court, which has been reluctant to step into the ongoing battle over lethal injection.

But while the fate of lethal injection in the U.S. remains uncertain, reverting to an older method of executions got an unexpected endorsement. In a separate opinion by the Ninth Circuit that upheld Wood’s stay of execution before the Supreme Court intervened, Judge Alex Kozinski called lethal injection flawed and proposed bringing back the firing squad.

“If some states and the federal government wish to continue carrying out the death penalty, they must turn away from this misguided path and return to more primitive—and foolproof—methods of execution,” Judge Kozinski wrote. “The guillotine is probably best but seems inconsistent with our national ethos. And the electric chair, hanging and the gas chamber are each subject to occasional mishaps. The firing squad strikes me as the most promising. Eight or ten large-caliber bullets fired at close range can inflict massive damage, causing instant death every time. … Sure, firing squads can be messy, but if we are willing to carry out executions, we should not shield ourselves from the reality that we are shedding human blood.”

Legislators in several states have proposed bringing back firing squads. Only Oklahoma and Utah currently allow them, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, but only under very limited circumstances.

Wood’s execution was set for Wednesday morning.

TIME

New Clinton Docs Disparage Ginsburg, Underscore Security Concerns at Atlanta Olympics

Clinton Global Initiative America Meetings Begin In Chicago
Former President Bill Clinton listens as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks to guests at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) on June 13, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. Scott Olson—Getty Images

Among other revelations in the newly-released papers, the White House warned of the Supreme Court candidate's "halting speech" and "laconic nature" in one memo

The latest trove of previously-unreleased documents from the Clinton White House reveal the administration’s candid and at times unflattering assessment of Ruth Bader Ginsburg before her confirmation to the Supreme Court.

The memo, drafted by then-White House Associate Counsel Ron Klain to David Gergen, lists Ginsburg’s defense of the American Civil Liberties Union and “her failure to make eye contact, her halting speech, her “laconic” nature” as potential “performance pitfalls” for her in Senate confirmation hearings. It also includes the underlined warning that, “Judge Ginsburg views the White House’s interest and her interests as being at odds with each other.”

“She sees us as having a stake in presenting her as a moderate and in getting along well with the Senate; she sees her interests as ‘being herself,’ preserving her ‘dignity,’ and promoting her ‘independence,'” the memo continued.

The document is part of the latest batch of memos from the Clinton administration that have been released by the Clinton Library over the past several months. Also in this release is a memo from Klain outlining the subjects President Bill Clinton should bring up and which to avoid in a conversation with soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

Also of note is the multiple-choice memo to Clinton seeking his preferences for a planned trip to Spain, Poland, Romania and Denmark, and a White House memo outlining contingency planning for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

Bonus: With this check mark, President Bill Clinton began the process of nominating Sonia Sotomayor to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Clinton Library

The Ginsburg memo:

The Breyer memo:

The Olympics memo:

The trip planning memo:

TIME Religion

Atheist to Give First Town Board Invocation Following Supreme Court Battle

A Supreme Court decision upholding prayer before town board meetings has emboldened non-believers to give their own messages

As the Supreme Court heard oral arguments last November on whether town board meetings that open with prayer violate the First Amendment, Justice Antonin Scalia asked a rhetorical question: What does an invocation sound like from a non-believer?

Dan Courtney has an answer. The former president of the Freethinkers of Upstate New York will deliver the invocation before the town board of Greece, New York Tuesday evening, the same town at the center of the recent Supreme Court case.

Courtney says he contacted the board the same day the court ruled 5-4 that prayer did not violate the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause prohibiting the government from establishing an official religion. And he’ll soon be one of several non-believers around the U.S. who have recently delivered secular messages before public town meetings.

While Courtney says he wasn’t surprised by the ruling, he was disappointed.

“Sectarian prayer is very divisive,” he says. “Almost by definition, you’re excluding a portion of people who don’t believe in that doctrine, and it excludes the 20% of the population that is non-religious.”

But at the same time, the Supreme Court ruling appears to have emboldened several non-believers to deliver their own messages in a public forum, including an invocation at the Osceola County, Fla., board of commissioners meeting by a member of the Central Florida Freethought Community and several invocations by a non-believer at Portage, Michigan city council meetings.

In his message, Courtney says he’ll draw on the Declaration of Independence and invoke the idea that governments derive their authority from the people, not a higher power.

“If you’re an American, this should resonate with you,” he says.

TIME States

Colorado Attorney General Urges Clerks to Stop Issuing Gay-Marriage Licenses

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers talked about the Hayman Fire and the plea agreement deal with Terry Barton. Suthers was in his office on Wednesday, May 23, 2012. Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post
Colorado attorney general John Suthers in his office on Wednesday, May 23, 2012. Cyrus McCrimmon—The Denver Post/Getty Images

Attorney general says clerks are violating the law, since the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is still in effect

County clerks in Colorado who have been issuing marriage licenses to gay couples might soon be ordered to stop, if an appeal to the state’s supreme court by its attorney general is carried out.

Calling the current situation “legal chaos,” where clerks are issuing licenses even though Colorado’s ban on same-sex marriage has not been struck down, attorney general John Suthers said the state is being forced to violate its own laws, reports the Denver Post.

Suthers asked the supreme court to intervene after judges from some of the state’s lower courts refused to entertain a similar request, and allowed county clerks to continue giving gay couples marriage licenses.

C. Scott Crabtree, a judge in Adams County District Court, ruled last week that the state’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional and denied a request to stop Denver clerks from issuing licenses to gay couples. A Boulder County judge also followed suit, and clerks in Denver and Pueblo began issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

However, Suthers said the ban still stands, since Crabtree’s ruling has not yet taken effect.

Most clerks in the state are continuing to issue these licenses because they are against the ban, and Suthers said he understands the issue is an emotional one. “But we simply cannot, as a matter of respect for the rule of law, ignore the processes by which laws are changed,” he said.

[The Denver Post]

TIME Campaign Finance

IRS to Rubber-Stamp Tax-Exempt Status for Most Charities After Scandal

Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen testifies during a hearing before the Government Operations Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee July 9, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen testifies during a hearing before the Government Operations Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee July 9, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Alex Wong—Getty Images

IRS head touts "efficiencies," but some groups fear fraud

Amid ongoing controversy over its scrutiny of nonprofits, the Internal Revenue Service has decided it will no longer screen approximately 80% of the organizations seeking tax-exempt charitable status each year, a change that will ease the creation of small charities while doing away with a review intended to counter fraud and prevent political and other noncharitable groups from misusing the tax code.

As of July 1, any group that pays a $400 fee and declares on a three-page online form that it has annual income of less than $50,000, total assets of less than $250,000 and is in compliance with the tax-code requirements of a charity will automatically be allowed to accept donations that are tax-deductible for the donors. Previously the groups had to fill out a detailed 26-page form, submit multiple supporting documents and provide a narrative description of their intended activities.

In an interview with TIME, IRS commissioner John Koskinen said the change would result in “efficiencies [that] will translate into a faster and better review” of bigger nonprofits, while clearing a 66,000-application backlog that has resulted in yearlong waits for groups seeking to start a charity. He said the new short form comes with 20 pages of instructions that make clear the requirements and limitations of being a charitable organization. Koskinen said that on the new short form, “people certify that they’ve gone through the instructions” under penalty of perjury.

The IRS rejected the idea of the new Form 1023-EZ in 2012, but using an expedited process this year, adopted the new procedure on the recommendation of a small team composed largely of frontline workers from the scandal-plagued division of exempt organizations, according to the IRS.

Some charitable groups worry the IRS has opened the door to abuse of tax-exempt status that will undermine the credibility of legitimate nonprofits, which are allowed to accept deductible donations under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code. “The Form 1023-EZ will increase opportunity for fraud,” said Alissa Hecht Gardenswartz, president of the National Association of State Charity Officials, and will make it harder “to protect charitable assets from fraud and abuse and to ensure that charitable assets are used for the purposes represented to the public.”

Others worry that charities, nominally barred from political activity, will come to serve the same purpose as the powerful nonprofit organizations known as 501(c)(4)s, whose donations cannot be deducted from taxes. This could give an added tax benefit to donors who have recently funneled hundreds of millions of dollars into independent political campaign spending. “What we’ll see is the so-called dark political money that flowed into the (c)(4) world is going to begin to flow into the (c)(3) world,” says Marcus Owens, who was the director of the exempt-organizations division at the IRS from 1990 to 2000, and is now in private practice at the law firm of Caplin & Drysdale.

The change will result in approximately 40,000 to 50,000 fewer (c)(3) applications for the exempt-organizations division to review each year, Koskinen says. The division, whose main office is in Cincinnati, has been at the center of the IRS scandal over alleged political scrutiny of right-wing 501(c)(4) groups under then-head Lois Lerner. That scandal centers on shortcuts the office developed to identify (c)(4) groups for further screening, including screens for groups with the names that suggested an association with the Tea Party movement.

The current legal interpretation of tax regulations allows so-called (c)(4)s to engage in political activities as long as they don’t spend more than 50% of their money on politics. In the 2010 Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court, those same groups earned the ability to buy campaign ads in federal elections, and tax laws allowed them to conceal the identity of their donors. Since the ruling, the number of applications to become a (c)(4) has doubled, to around 1,000 per year, Koskinen says. In the 2012 campaign, (c)(4)s spent approximately $300 million dollars on politics, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Much of that money was spent attempting to motivate voters by advertising positions on specific issues that divide candidates. Owens, the former IRS official, says such activity can be cast under the mission of a (c)(3) devoted to educational, religious or other permitted activities, opening the possibility of deductible dark money. “The candidate links to the issue, and then the tax-exempt organization’s job is to find the voters and make sure they know the message and hear it loud and clear up to election day,” says Owens. “That’s what the (c)(4)s were doing, but that kind of activity could be just as easily in a (c)(3), but it would have the added advantage of having tax deductibility attached to it,” Owens says.

Democratic defenders of the IRS and the exempt-organizations office say both have been deprived of resources, as the overall IRS budget was cut by nearly $950 million, or around 7.8%, from 2010 to 2013, according to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office. In an April 2014 report, the GAO found the cuts had been offset through savings and efficiencies, and by reducing, delaying or eliminating services. Koskinen says budget cuts didn’t play a role in the change in charity rules. “Obviously we are resource-constrained everywhere across the agency,” he says, but “we would want to do this anyway.”

While charity groups agree the old process for receiving tax-exempt status was too cumbersome, they and others worry that now organizations with no true charitable purpose will seek to become charities. “It’s easier to get tax-exempt status under 1023-EZ than it is to get a library card,” says Tim Delaney, president and CEO of the Council of Nonprofits. As a result, Delaney says, bad actors “will be able to operate in the name of the charity, and the IRS will never be the wiser because they’re not looking at the underlying documentation.”

Koskinen says such worries are overblown. “There’s a faith that if someone has been forced to do more paperwork they’re going to be less nefarious,” he says. He says that to prevent potential abuse, the IRS will take samples of applications to see what percentage are being filled out incorrectly, and will monitor the number of applications to see if it spikes suspiciously as a result of the new rules.

Owens says the IRS may not be able to differentiate between truly small charities and those that knowingly plan to grow beyond $50,000 in annual income. “I haven’t seen any mechanism where the IRS would be legally able to go after an organization that applied within the EZ process but then fortune shined on them,” Owens says. He also says that because of outdated software, the IRS won’t be able to track active charities back from its master file to their originating documents. An IRS official speaking on background acknowledged the software problem.

Charities complain that the change was made with little consultation from their representative lobbying organizations. The IRS sped its enactment this year by routing the change through the White House’s Office of Management and Budget for public comment under the Paperwork Reduction Act, rather than through the normal public-comment process at the IRS, nonprofit officials contend. “I just wish the IRS had used a more inclusive process from the beginning,” says Delaney of the Council of Nonprofits.

The IRS studied a simplified tax-exempt form in 2012 but rejected the idea. The group that looked at the idea, made up of outside lawyers and experts in tax-exempt organizations, said that filling out the longer form forced groups to better understand the requirements of being a charity. The group said it “may also be easier to embezzle from a small charity,” so they should be subject to more, not less, oversight.

TIME Technology & Media

Aereo Lawyers: We’re A Cable Company Now

And therefore, they argue, entitled to a compulsory license under Section 111 of the Copyright Act

In a letter to a District judge on Wednesday, lawyers for Aereo signaled a shift for the television streaming company whose business was halted in late June following a Supreme Court decision.

Aereo’s lawyers are now implying the company — which transmitted television broadcasts directly to users via the Internet — is a cable system and not a technology service provider as the Second Circuit court found. Because of this, the lawyers say they are entitled to a compulsory license under Section 111 of the Copyright Act and should be allowed to continue operating.

“Under the Second Circuit’s precedents, Aereo was a provider of technology and equipment with respect to the near-live transmissions at issue in the preliminary injunction appeal. After the Supreme Court decision, Aereo is a cable company with respect to those transmissions,” the lawyers write in a letter published by the Hollywood Reporter.

They continue, “If Aereo is a ‘cable system’ as that term is defined in the Copyright Act, it is eligible for a statutory license, and its transmissions may not be enjoined (preliminarily or otherwise).”

Following the Supreme Court decision, which found the company violated copyright law and should be required to follow the same rules as cable and satellite companies, the start-up halted business. Lawyers also say that, given the Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling, any potential legal action against their operations should be limited to the “simultaneous or near-simultaneous streaming of over-the-air television programs.”

Broadcasters argue, however, that Aereo’s arguments are invalid.

“Aereo never before pled (much less litigated) Section 111 as an affirmative defense,” the plaintiff’s lawyers wrote. “Whatever Aereo may say about its rationale for raising it now, it is astonishing for Aereo to contend the Supreme Court’s decision automatically transformed Aereo into a ‘cable system’ under Section 111 given its prior statements to this Court and the Supreme Court.”

TIME Gay Rights

Utah Will Appeal Gay Marriage Ruling in Supreme Court

Appeals Court Overturns Same Sex Marriage Ban In Utah
Laurie Wood, (L) and her partner Kody Partridge hold hands at a press conference after the 10th Circuit Court in Denver rejected a same-sex marriage ban in Utah on June 25, 2014 in Salt Lake City, Utah. George Frey—Getty Images

Utah has decided to go straight to the U.S. Supreme Court to argue against gay marriage

(SALT LAKE CITY) —€” Utah has decided to go straight to the U.S. Supreme Court to argue against gay marriage, meaning the nation’s highest court will have at least one same-sex marriage case on its plate when it returns in October.

The office of the Utah attorney general announced Wednesday that it would bypass a full appeals court and take the gay marriage case to the Supreme Court instead.

If the U.S. Supreme court decides to take the case, it will be the first time the top court considers gay marriage since justices last year struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The high court is under no obligation to the take the case, and it could wait for rulings from one or more of the five other appellate courts with gay marriage cases pending, legal scholars say.

Utah’s appeal is of a June 25 ruling from a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, which found states cannot deprive people of the fundamental right to marry simply because they choose partners of the same sex. The panel immediately put the ruling on hold pending an appeal.

The Utah case is certain to pique the Supreme Court’s interest, but the justices usually look for cases that involve split rulings from federal appeals courts, said Douglas NeJaime, a University of California-Irvine law professor.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments about Virginia’s ban in early May, and a ruling is expected soon. Arguments are scheduled for August and September in two different courts for cases out of Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Nevada and Idaho.

“My best guess it that the court will hang onto this for a while and see what happens,” NeJaime said. “There are so many cases now, it will have a pick.”

William Eskridge, a Yale University law professor, also doesn’t expect a quick decision from the high court. The Supreme Court is under no deadline to make a decision and knows other appellate decisions are coming, he said.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes’ office said in a statement the appeal will be filed in the coming weeks, to get “clarity and resolution” on the matter. The decision to go directly to the Supreme Court means a review from the entire 10th Circuit Court is off the table, no matter what the high court decides.

Gov. Gary Herbert has said the state already budgeted for a need to defend the law before the Supreme Court. It is expected to cost another $300,000 to have three outside attorneys handle the case — the same amount it cost to take the case to the federal appeals court.

The Supreme Court’s landmark ruling last summer allowed married same-sex couples to receive the same federal benefits as other married people, but did not specifically address whether gay marriage is a constitutional right.

Since then, lower courts have repeatedly cited the decision when striking down gay marriage bans. The latest such ruling was Wednesday, when a state judge struck down Colorado’s gay marriage ban. That ruling is on hold pending an appeal.

In the Utah case, the 10th Circuit upheld a lower court’s decision that overturned a 2004 voter-approved gay marriage ban. More than 1,000 same-sex couples wed in Utah after the ban was struck down and before the Supreme Court issued a stay.

The same thing happened in Indiana, where several hundred same-sex couples married during a two-day window in June. On Wednesday, Indiana state officials said they won’t recognize those marriages — the same decision Utah made.

The conservative Sutherland Institute of Utah applauded the state for appealing to the highest court, saying in a statement that it gives states the chance to “defend marriage as society’s way to encourage a married mother and father for every child.”

Plaintiff Moudi Sbeity called the decision to take the case to the Supreme Court “wonderful news.” He and his partner, Derek Kitchen, are one of three couples who sued over Utah’s gay marriage ban.

“We are one step closer toward having our families recognized in our home state,” Sbeity said. “It’s definitely a case our Supreme Court needs to hear. The faster we can move on this, the better for all of us.”

TIME Religion

After Hobby Lobby: A Single-Payer Health Care Solution?

Perhaps both sides could agree it may be a way forward

Now that the initial shouting and—at times—vitriol from both sides has subsided after Monday’s Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, it’s time to take a sober look at what the ruling says about the future of health care reform in the United States. The majority’s ruling was an imperfect solution to a complicated case involving the reach of religious liberty to exempt organizations from providing certain medical benefits that they find morally objectionable to their employees. The fact that these medical benefits were almost exclusively offered to women makes this decision all the more difficult to accept for some.

But at its core, the case reveals something else as well. It brings to the forefront something we’ve all known for sometime: that Obamacare—for all the good it’s done in increasing access to quality and affordable healthcare—is a messy law. It asks employees to be at the whim of its employers’ objectives and mission for what health care benefits they receive. It also asks employers to at times reject its deepest convictions in order to provide certain benefits to its employees.

This isn’t sustainable. A person’s access to quality healthcare shouldn’t depend on who their boss is. And an employer shouldn’t be heavily fined if they don’t compromise their religious convictions in providing healthcare for their staff.

President Obama’s Affordable Care Act is a monumental first step in achieving a just and equitable American health care system that seeks first to serve those on the margins of society. But as we look towards the future, it’s necessary to consider major alterations or even alternatives to Obamacare to continue to advance healthcare reform.

For those of us who value both universal access to quality healthcare and the strong American tradition of protecting religious liberty, there might be a solution in a single-payer system.

A single-payer system overturns an unsound principle of Obamacare: relying too heavily on private organizations to deliver the public good of healthcare. When you require private organizations to enforce what the government believes ought to be public policy, you open yourself to a myriad of legal and ethical qualms. How can you expect organizations as diverse as Hobby Lobby, the Little Sisters of the Poor and the American Atheists to agree on what health care benefits are appropriate for their employees?

Amidst all the fuss this week over the Supreme Court ruling, both sides actually agreed on one thing: they disliked the accommodation provided by the Obama Administration for religious organizations. Religious groups argue the exemption is too narrow and doesn’t protect the autonomy of some organizations to practice their convictions. Women’s groups argue that the current accommodation unfairly denies women working for religious groups access to birth control, which is a basic benefit in any healthcare plan.

A single-payer public health care option eliminates such complications. No matter who your boss is or what business you work for, you get access to the healthcare you need. And employers will not be forced to compromise their religious beliefs while providing the public good of healthcare.

And let’s be clear, if you have something that is both supported by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Planned Parenthood, you might be onto a plan that proves the angel Gabriel right: nothing is impossible with God.

Fred Rotondaro is the chair of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. Christopher Hale is a senior fellow at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. He helped lead national Catholic outreach for President Obama’s re-election campaign.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser