Benitez v. North Coast Women's Care Medical Group

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Status: Closed Approximate
Outcome:
Landmark Case
Court:
California Supreme Court
Issues: Health Care Fairness, Marriage, Relationships and Family Protections, Religious Exemptions

Case arguing that health care providers' personal religious beliefs do not excuse discrimination against LGBT patients Issues

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Summary

For nearly a year starting in August of 1999, Guadalupe "Lupita" Benitez was denied infertility treatment by the North Coast Women's Care Medical Group because she is a lesbian. Her former doctors are conservative Christians who claim their religious beliefs give them a right to withhold care from Benitez that they routinely provide to heterosexual patients. With Lambda Legal's help, Benitez has been fighting this injustice. The case is currently before the California State Supreme Court  The highest state court in the state court system on the question whether individual antigay religious beliefs allow doctors to violate the state civil rights law that applies to commercial businesses, including for-profit medical clinics like North Coast Women's Care.

Context

Federal law does not exempt health care providers from state civil rights laws. This has been upheld by the Appellate court/Mid-level appeals court  A court with jurisdiction to review decisions of trial courts in California and sets an important Precedent  A reported opinion of an appeals court that establishes the authority in the future on a given legal question as the first ruling of its kind in the nation.

Lambda Legal's Impact

Lambda Legal is fighting for the basic right of LGBT people to receive equal access to treatment from health care providers. This case also tackles the issue of religiously motivated discrimination. The California Supreme Court has said repeatedly that people with religious views who are engaged in business may not ignore laws that protect others from harm, including harms of discrimination, no matter how sincere their religious views may be. Lambda Legal is working to uphold this basic concept of fairness.