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What the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision really means for corporations

Kevin Chupka
Executive Producer/Writer

There's been much said about the decision by the Supreme Court earlier this week to allow retailer Hobby Lobby an exemption from provisions in Obamacare that would require them to provide some types of contraception to their female employees. For their part Hobby Lobby, which is a tightly held family company that holds close to their religious beliefs, said Obamacare violated those mores.

We know what the decision means for Hobby Lobby and for this provision of Obamacare, but what implications does it have on corporations across the board.

Zachary Karabell of Envestnet notes that this is the second case in which Chief Justice John Robert's court has ruled that corporations have at least some "personhood" (the other being the Citizens United case that dealt with corporate campaign donations). The aforementioned personhood "entitles [corporations] to some of the protections and rights that persons enjoy including first amendment [and] free speech," Karabell says.

While he admits the decision is not his favorite, he says it's not a sign of the apocalypse and end of human rights either. Karabell notes that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg in particular was careful to note that the court's decision "can't then justify companies saying 'oh we're not gonna hire women because it's against our religious beliefs or we're not gonna hire gays because it's against our religious beliefs.'"

In short, Karabell says, it will allow companies to do what they have always done which is "do what is largely in their interests. It happens to be in the interest of this one company, Hobby Lobby, for the reasons of its owners, to have this moral framework."

He points to other companies, Disney (DIS) being a good example, where a more accepting culture benefits the bottom line. In the case of Mickey Mouse and company, "they have hundreds of thousands of employees," Karabell notes, "many of whom are in creative industries and in order to attract people in those industries they felt like their competitive advantage is to be more open and more inclusive."

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