Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a brief order late Tuesday, hours before the controversial Obama administration mandates were set to go into effect.
The Little Sisters of the Poor — a charity congregation of Roman Catholic women in Denver — and the Illinois-based Christian Brothers Services had filed a lawsuit objecting to the contraception mandate, saying it violated their religious and moral beliefs. Some religious-affiliated groups were required to comply with contraception coverage or face hefty fines.
Sotomayor said the two groups were exempted from the mandates until at least Friday, when the federal government faces a deadline to file a legal response in the case.
While the Supreme Court order was just directed at the two Catholic-affiliated organizations, it had the practical effect of delaying implementation of the contraception mandates for nearly all the dozens of religious groups that filed separate appeals around the country in recent months.
Three other similar emergency appeals from Catholic archdioceses in Michigan, Tennessee and Washington, DC, were filed with the high court Tuesday, but they were not acted upon because lower federal appeals courts had issued injunctions temporarily blocking enforcement.