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On her way to becoming the first Supreme Court justice to lead the Times Square New Year's Eve countdown, Sonia Sotomayor signed a last-minute stay on the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate for a Catholic organization.

Denver's Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged argued that the Act's compromise for religious nonprofits that did not want to pay for birth control coverage for their employees was not enough, and that signing the certification form authorizing a third party insurer to offer contraception would still violate their religious beliefs. Not signing the form would result in fines of an estimated $1.1 million. A federal district court denied the nuns' motion on December 27, so it was left to the Tenth Circuit Court's chief justice -- Sotomayor -- to either order a stay or leave the nuns to face the ACA as written when it became law today.

Sotomayor then headed to Times Square to push the button and begin the traditional ball drop, which went off without a hitch. She's the first Supreme Court justice to participate in the event, which raised a few eyebrows. She was kept separate from Miley Cyrus, so as to retain her judicial dignity.

Two for-profit companies' arguments against the contraceptive mandate on religious freedom grounds will be heard by the Supreme Court in March, but, as non-religious entities that happened to be run by religious people, they were not included in the ACA's exemption.

The government has until 10 am Friday to respond to Sotomayor's order.



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