Close to a hundred protesters descended on Hobby Lobby in Burbank Monday, chanting and waving posters, crafting IUDs out of colorful pipe cleaners, and handing out coupons and gift cards to competing craft stores to protest a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing the company to exempt certain contraceptives from employees' medical coverage on religious grounds.
As the craft store celebrated its grand opening, women and men planted themselves outside the store, urging customers to buy their craft goods elsewhere.
The Green family, which owns the craft chain, argued that being forced to provide IUDs and the so-called morning after pill — a requirement under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare — went against the evangelical Christian beliefs of its owners, as they believe such treatments are tantamount to abortion.
The Supreme Court ruled that “closely held” companies — meaning five or fewer people own 50% or more of a company — can refuse to cover contraception if such coverage offends religious beliefs.
Around 1 p.m., employees and city officials celebrated the grand opening with a ribbon cutting inside the store.
“I'm excited,” said store manager Mark Bartleson, declining to comment on the protest. “It's a great community and we're excited to come and be a part of it.”
Burbank Mayor David Gordon welcomed the store into the community at the event and said he had not explored the Supreme Court decision in detail.
“I came to welcome the business not to pass judgment on any national issues,” Gordon said. “It's unfortunate when it creates tension in the community, regardless of your position.”
Hobby Lobby patron and longtime Burbank resident Norma Brandel called the demonstration “ridiculous.”
“Why should I have to pay for their birth control?” said Brandel, who purchased a lampshade and cloth flowers from the store. “Shouldn't they be responsible women and take care of themselves?”
Outside, Lauren Steiner, an activist who helped organize the protest, said the nation's high court was waging a war against women with the decision.
The decision “shows these men want to return to a day where women are barefoot and pregnant and self-aborting with knitting needles they can probably buy at Hobby Lobby,” said Steiner, who was dressed in a vagina costume.
Joining her was Thomas O'Shaughnessy, a Glendale resident who is opposed to abortion but still identifies himself as “pro-choice.”
An Irish Catholic, O'Shaughnessy said “my religion is not something I impose on society.”
While Hobby Lobby's female employees would be denied certain contraceptives, “if I worked for Hobby Lobby and I wanted to get Viagra, they would pay for it,” O'Shaughnessy said. “Doesn't that seem like a terrible injustice?”
Nearby, activist Jessica Gottlieb and a group of friends were flagging down shoppers and handing out coupons and gift cards for competing craft stores like Michaels and Jo-Ann Fabrics.
“Our reason is to let people know they have choices,” Gottlieb said.
Among the speeches and chants, a country music station was holding a raffle for Hobby Lobby gift cards while Burbank police were video recording the protest.
Meanwhile, Burbank resident Annette Gutierrez was applying for a job at the new store.
Regarding the protesters, “if you don't like it, don't shop here, don't work here,” Gutierrez said.