We haven’t heard much lately on the court fights over the HHS contraception mandate, but this ruling guarantees we’ll be hearing a lot more later.  The 10th Circuit unanimously overturned a district court decision that refused to impose a temporary injunction against enforcement of the mandate on Hobby Lobby, ruling that the plaintiffs met the legal requirements for such relief, at least in part:

A federal appeals court in Denver has reversed a lower court’s decision to deny Hobby Lobby Stores Inc.’s quest for an injunction against part of the Affordable Care Act that requires it to cover the cost of emergency contraceptives for some of its employees.

In a 168-page ruling issued Thursday, the appellate court sent Hobby Lobby case back to a lower court for further review.

The panel of nine appellate court judges who heard arguments in the case in May ruled unanimously that Hobby Lobby and its affiliated Christian bookstore chain Mardel have the right to sue over the Affordable Care Act.

The court split 5-4 on whether to impose the injunction itself, ruling instead to send it back to the district court to rehear the motion.  Four justices felt that Hobby Lobby fully met the legal requirements, while the majority ruled that the private company met enough of the requirements that the lower court should have considered its request.

The ruling comes none too soon for Hobby Lobby.  Starting in four days, the federal government could start levying fines for non-compliance with the mandate amounting to $1.3 million while Hobby Lobby pursues its challenge.  If the lower court doesn’t address this soon, the fines will begin to pile up.  It will be interesting to see whether the lower court takes the unanimous hint and applies the injunction immediately without further debate, or whether the judge will force Hobby Lobby to reargue the motion first.

More importantly, this is a significant win for private-sector business owners on religious liberty grounds.  The appellate court has now ruled that the issue of forcing owners to violate their religious tenets through health-care mandates is at least worthy of review by the judiciary.