California Supreme Court Rules Doctors Must Provide Treatment That Violates Their Religious Beliefs
By Thaddeus M. Baklinski
SAN FRANCISCO, August 19, 2008 (LifeSIteNews.com) - A lesbian woman in California has won a law suit in which she claims doctors at a fertility clinic discriminated against her based on her sexual orientation.
In a 7-0 decision yesterday, the California Supreme Court ruled that religious beliefs do not excuse doctors from the state’s anti-discrimination law, which "imposes on business establishments certain anti-discrimination obligations."
"The 1st Amendment’s right to the free exercise of religion does not exempt defendant physicians here from conforming their conduct to the . . . anti-discrimination requirements, even if compliance poses an incidental conflict with the defendants’ religious beliefs," wrote Justice Joyce L. Kennard in the 18-page decision.
Dr. Douglas Fenton and Dr. Christine Brody of the North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group in San Diego County, the defendants in the case, said they had declined for religious reasons to artificially inseminate an unmarried woman and argued that the US 1st Amendment, which guarantees rights to free speech and free exercise of religion, protected them from being compelled to perform a medical procedure which conflicted with their moral beliefs.
Dr. Brody, an obstetrician and gynecologist at the clinic, said she would not perform an intrauterine insemination on Guadalupe, a lesbian who lives with her partner and wanted to become pregnant with donated sperm, stating she would not perform the procedure on any unmarried woman, regardless of sexual orientation.
Benítez sought the treatment in 1999 after two years of trying to conceive using an at-home insemination kit; she had been diagnosed with an ovarian syndrome that would require her to get the help of fertility specialists to get pregnant.
When Dr. Brody refused to do the insemination Benítez sued her and the clinic, which resulted in a 2004 court ruling in favour of Benitez. An Appeals Court overturned that decision one year later, finding that the previous ruling had denied the doctors’ religious rights. Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision, however, voided the Appeals Court ruling.
"This isn’t just a win for me personally and for other lesbian women," said Benitez about the Supreme Court ruling. "Anyone could be the next target if doctors are allowed to pick and choose their patients based on religious views about other groups of people."
According to an L. A. Times report, Kenneth R. Pedroza, who represented the doctors, said the ruling would probably cause many physicians to refuse to perform inseminations at all. Pedroza said Dr. Brody did not violate the law because it did not bar discrimination on the basis of marital status when Benitez sought insemination in 1999. The state law has since been amended.
A press release from the Capitol Resource Institute, a California family policy advocacy group, said, "The California Supreme Court’s decision proves that these activist judges are willing to deny our First Amendment religious freedom in order to create rights for homosexuals." (http://www.capitolresource.org/)
The Pacific Justice Institute, a legal defense organization specializing in the defense of religious freedom which had filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the doctors, concurred: "Today, California’s highest court unanimously ruled that the state’s civil rights laws offer virtually no exceptions for people of faith. Unless the ruling is eventually overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court . . . its implications appear to be far-reaching. For instance, the ruling probably means that, regardless of their beliefs, everyone in the state’s wedding industry must service gay weddings, California family law attorneys must handle gay adoptions and same-sex divorces, and so on."
PJI President Brad Dacus said, "This case starkly demonstrates the take-no-prisoners approach of the gay rights movement. They will not stop until they have silenced or bankrupted every voice of conscience who disagrees with them." (http://www.pacificjustice.org/resources/news/focusdetails.cfm?ID=PR080818a)