Hobby Lobby opening draws shoppers, protestors

When Hobby Lobby opened Friday in the space formerly occupied by Stein Mart, a group of protestors wanted to make sure it didn’t happen quietly.

More than 50 people lined the corner of Newberry Road and Northwest 62nd Street holding signs with hand-painted slogans such as “Trust women” and “My body, my choice.” The group decided to protest the store opening in light of the Supreme Court’s early July decision validating the company’s opposition to covering birth control in employee health care plans.

CNN reported July 3 that the “5-4 high court ruling allowed some family-owned or other closely held businesses to opt out of a federal requirement to pay for contraceptives in health coverage for their workers. Owners of Hobby Lobby and another company argued the mandate in President Barack Obama’s health care reforms forced them to violate deeply held religious principles because they believe some of the contraceptives amount to abortion.”

The protest was a collaboration among multiple organizations, including Occupy Gainesville and local chapters of National Organization for Women and National Women’s Liberation. It began about 5 p.m. on Friday when a GPD officer gave instructions to the crowd of about 20 people who had gathered first. He then waved and said “OK, y’all have fun.”

Kathy Burnett, president of the Gainesville-area NOW chapter, said the protest got off to a good start.

“We’re getting lots of honks,” she said, facing traffic at about 5:30 p.m. “The cops are really sweet.”

Burnett summarized her opposition to Hobby Lobby as such: “Hobby Lobby brought a case to the Supreme Court trying to control women’s bodies, and it was wrong,” she said. “The case was wrong. The decision was wrong.”

Kendra Vincent, president of the National Women’s Liberation Gainesville chapter, said it was important to be vocal about the business opening.

“We want Hobby Lobby to know where Gainesville stands,” she said. “We don’t want them to open quietly.”

To rectify the situation, Vincent said Hobby Lobby should provide all forms of birth control to all employees under the company’s health care plan.

Sherry Maguire stood at one end of the line Friday afternoon. The local teacher said she read the nearly-100-page Supreme Court opinion piece about the ruling.

“I really believe in the faith and wisdom of the Supreme Court,” she said. “I just think they’re mistaken in this case.”

But judging from the business volume inside, shoppers were not deterred by the protest outside. People zipped up and down aisles and swarmed through checkout lines.

Sylvia Beles and Kristina Hewett were two of the shoppers.

“We’ve been waiting on it,” Beles said of the new store.

“We’re glad we don’t have to drive to Ocala [anymore],” Hewett said.

Both women noted that the store will help keep business in Gainesville and also create local jobs.


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