Supreme Court decision sparks protest at Hobby Lobby in Duluth
DULUTH -- As a lone protester outside Duluth’s Hobby Lobby on Tuesday, Arielle Schnur heard her share of detractors who sized her up as they strode in from the vast parking lot.
“I was called a baby killer,” Schnur said.
One Florida man waiting for his wife to come out of the store said Schnur was an example of what was wrong with the country.
By Wednesday, as the protest stretched into the second of its scheduled three days, Schnur found strength in growing numbers.
“There’s been far less yelling now that I have a strong group around me,” Schnur said as she was flanked by fellow protesters.
The protesters were outside Hobby Lobby working a two-fold purpose, they said, to inform curious passers-by and to attempt to deter customers from using the store in the wake of Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down the contraceptive mandate for family-owned businesses. It was the first time the high court affirmed businesses can hold religious views under federal law. It allows the company to deny female employees health care coverage of specific “morning after” pills and intrauterine devices.
The protest was inspired by Laura Gapske of Superior, Wis., who started commenting about the decision on Facebook, then thought, “That’s nice, but I wanted to do something that made a difference.”
Among the protesters’ interactions so far: one man hurrying into the store, saying he supported their opinion, but had to retrieve a latch hook kit for his expectant wife, and another woman who was returning merchandise after she’d gone home and researched the court’s decision and the company’s politics.
Hobby Lobby did not respond to a request for comment about the protest. After the court ruled Monday, Hobby Lobby’s co-owner, Barbara Green, responded by stating, “Our family is overjoyed by the Supreme Court’s decision. The decision is a victory, not just for our family business, but for all who seek to live out their faith.”
But the protesters rejected the notion that a corporation could get involved in a person’s decision-making. One said the court had created a “minefield” with the decision. Another called it “the first strike at the chipping and chipping away of pro-choice,” while another called it a slippery slope she fears will lead to a further degradation of Roe v. Wade and other women’s rights.
“All the men who get health care at Hobby Lobby get 100 percent of what a man wants,” said protester Kristi Gordon of Duluth.
“We’re trying to create a little discomfort,” Schnur said, summoning an old protest saw, “Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
One protester, Kym Young of Superior, posed an interesting dichotomy for people to consider.
“I’m pro-life and I’m still out here,” she said. “I’m worried for my granddaughters’ reproductive future.”
She wondered why a company would pay for an exemplary employee’s maternity leave, but not an unwanted pregnancy, or why the same company would pay for a man’s vasectomy or Viagra prescription.
She said it amounted to further discrimination against women, joining their current struggle for equal pay.
The protesters were knowledgeable about their cause and capable of rapid-fire exchanges.
“Reproductive health is more than just birth control,” Young said. “Endometriosis, menopause, cervical cancer can all be treated with birth control.”
Their biggest gripe was reserved for Barbara Green and her husband, Hobby Lobby founder David Green. Why, the protesters wondered, would they protect their family by establishing the company as a limited liability company, but refuse to allow their employees to protect their own families with contraception?