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Doctors Cannot Discriminate Against Gays Because Of Religion High Court Told

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Doctors Cannot Discriminate Against Gays Because Of Religion High Court Told

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

September 20, 2006 - 5:00 pm ET

(San Francisco, California) The California Supreme Court was told Wednesday that doctors should be forced to comply with the state's non-discrimination law in a case involving a woman who was denied service at a medical clinic because she is a lesbian.

"Doctors with antigay religious beliefs are not excused from obeying the laws that govern all of us," said Lambda legal attorney Jennifer C. Pizer. "That our client's doctors felt that they could defy well-established California law and medical ethics is very worrisome for all of us in a civil society."

Last December a state appeals court ruled that Drs. Christine Brody and Douglas Fenton had the right to refuse to artificially inseminate patient Guadalupe Benitez because it would have violated their religious beliefs.

The ruling reversed a lower court decision that the doctors could not use religion as a defense.

The appeals court panel found that the doctors were within their rights because they based their decision on Benitez's unmarried status and that discrimination based on marital status is not prohibited by state law.

Benitez, 33, sued the doctors and their small practice in Vista in 2001, claiming their actions violated California's anti-discrimination laws.

"For nearly a year, my doctors accepted my insurance company's payments and my co-payments and they strung me along with the promise that they would help me become pregnant," Benitez said Wednesday. "I was in my doctors' care for their medical assistance, not for their religious judgments."

Benitez was eventually treated elsewhere and gave birth to a boy who is now 3 years old.

In her suit, Benitez claimed that Brody told her in 1999 that her religious beliefs prevented her from helping a homosexual conceive a child by artificial insemination, but that other physicians at the practice would be able to help her.

The next year, Benitez said, she was told that both Brody and Fenton were unable to help her because they did not feel comfortable with her sexual orientation.

The doctors contend they denied treatment because Benitez and her registered domestic partner of 15 years were not married. Lambda legal maintained she was denied because of her sexual orientation, not her marital status.

The justices gave no indication when they might rule in the case.

©365Gay.com 2006

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