The Oceanside, CA lesbian whose doctors denied her infertility treatment based on her sexual orientation has reached a settlement with her former physicians in her historic lawsuit against them.
In a joint statement ending eight years of litigation, Guadalupe ‘Lupita’ Benítez and her former doctors at North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group said, ‘…the parties have reached a mutually satisfactory settlement of the litigation for an undisclosed sum of money. Guadalupe Benitez and her spouse Joanne Clark initiated the lawsuit because they felt that the defendants treated Ms. Benitez differently due to her sexual orientation. The defendants are sincerely sorry that Ms. Benitez and Ms. Clark have felt this way, and have never meant to treat Ms. Benitez with disrespect. Defendants want all of their patients, including those who are lesbian and gay, to feel welcome and accepted in their medical practice, and are committed to treating all of their patients with equal dignity and respect in the context of the highest quality of medical care.’
California Supreme Court rules in favor of lesbian mom denied infertility treatment by Christian fundamentalist doctors
Lambda Legal reports that the California Supreme Court has ruled a group of doctors cannot use their religion as a legal excuse for violating the civil rights of their former patient – an Oceanside lesbian – to whom they refused an infertility treatment based on their religious views about her sexual orientation.
In a unanimous decision, the justices ruled that Guadalupe “Lupita” Benitez was entitled to be treated like other patients with her same health problem, and that constitutional protections for religious liberty do not excuse unlawful discrimination. Writing for the court, Justice Kennard said: “ …defendant physicians contend that exposing them to liability for refusing to perform the IUI medical procedure for plaintiff infringes upon their First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise of religion. Not so. As we noted earlier, California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act imposed on business establishments certain antidiscrimination obligations, thus precluding any such establishment or its agents from telling patrons that it will not comply with the Act.”
“These doctors happened to have strongly held religious beliefs about gay people,” said Jennifer C. Pizer, senior counsel for Lambda Legal who argued the case in the California Supreme Court for Benitez. “There’s a great diversity of religious beliefs in California, and they’re all protected – but not to the point where laws are violated and other people are hurt. Each of us is protected both in our religious beliefs and also from religiously-based discrimination in the doctor’s office and other commercial settings.”
Do religious beliefs give doctors the right to withhold medical treatment from lesbians and gay men?
Guadalupe Benitez alleges that “after treating her with fertility drugs for nearly a year the staff of the private North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group refused to inseminate her eight years ago because of her sexual orientation.”
The California Supreme Court is scheduled to review the discrimination suit this week.
Many civil rights and physician groups believe the decision could have consequences for other medical procedures – including abortion and euthanasia.
“There is confusion among many health care providers who believe doctors have the freedom to pick and choose their patients,” said Jennifer Pizer, an attorney with Lambda Legal who represents Benitez. “But doctors’ ethics may not be exercised in a discriminatory way.”
California Supreme Court to hear case of lesbian denied infertility treatment by Christian fundamentalists
The California Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Wednesday, May 28, 2008 in the case of an Oceanside lesbian whose doctors at North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group denied her fertility treatments based on their religious beliefs.
Lambda Legal represents Guadalupe “Lupita” Benitez. In 1999, her doctor referred her to North Coast for fertility treatments. After eleven months of preparatory treatments, doctors finally admitted they would not inseminate her because she is a lesbian. The doctors claim a right not to comply with California’s civil rights law because they are fundamentalist Christians and they object to treating a lesbian patient the same way they treat other patients.
In late 2004, Benitez won a legal ruling in the trial court saying that doctors in a for-profit medical group must comply with California’s antidiscrimination laws and treat all patients equally, whatever the doctors’ personal religious beliefs may be; in other words, if they provide a certain type of treatment, they must provide it equally to all patients. The doctors asked the Court of Appeal in San Diego to review that ruling and the court ruled in the doctors’ favor.
Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.
Article adapted by ProudParenting.com from original press release.
Lesbian mom sues San Diego fertility doctors who refused to help her based on religious beliefs. Supreme Court to hear the case
Guadalupe Benitez, and her partner are suing two San Diego doctors who refused to artificially inseminate her based on religious grounds.
In 2001, Doctors Christine Brody and Douglas Fenton denied service to the woman, citing religious objections, although Benitez had been a patient at their fertility clinic for 11 months and was taking fertility drugs prescribed by Dr. Brody. The clinic was the only one covered by her insurance plan.
Benitez argued that they violated California’s anti-discrimination laws that protect gays and lesbians. The California Supreme Court will hear the case but has yet to set a date.
“I was very distraught,” Benitez says. “I was very confused. I couldn’t even bear to think that possibly I was never going to be able to have children.”
In court documents, the doctors claim they refused to treat Benitez because she is a single mother, not because she is a lesbian, but Benitez says the physicians originally told her that her sexual orientation was at issue.
Jill Morrison, legal counsel to the National Women’s Law Center, argues the distinguishing factor in the case is that the doctors refused to perform IVF for one patient, even though they provide the procedure to other women. “Usually, providers who object to certain services object to them for everyone,” Morrison said, adding, “In this case, they don’t object to the service, just the patient.”
An appeals court in 2005 ruled that the doctors have the right at trial to cite religious freedom to defend themselves. Benitez appealed the ruling, and the Supreme Court in 2006 agreed to hear the case.
Benitez ultimately received treatment at another facility and gave birth to a son, now 5, and twin daughters, now 2.
“People ask me, ‘Why are you doing this? You have your kids,'” she says. “I want to make a difference. These doctors are not God. They cannot manipulate who can have children and who cannot.”