Lambda Legal Asks California Supreme Court to Hear Case on Behalf of Lesbian Denied Infertility Treatment by Christian Fundamentalist Doctors

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"Our client's doctors' behavior goes against established medical ethics and is not legal under California civil rights law."
April 25, 2006

(Los Angeles, April 25, 2006) — Lambda Legal filed papers late yesterday with the California Supreme Court asking it to review a lower court decision that allowed doctors to refuse infertility treatment to lesbian patient Guadalupe Benitez, based on their religious beliefs. “Our client’s doctors’ behavior goes against established medical ethics and violates California civil rights law,” said Jennifer C. Pizer, Senior Counsel at Lambda Legal based in the organization’s Western Regional Office. “We’re asking the Supreme Court to reverse the lower court’s decision because it goes against the very issue the Court settled in 2004 when it ruled that Catholic Charities, a social services agency and not a church, may not violate civil rights laws no matter how earnestly they may wish to.” Lambda Legal represents Guadalupe “Lupita” Benitez who was denied infertility treatment by her Southern California health care providers 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. Benitez’s lawsuit was thrown out of state court initially, but she won an appeal three years ago that said that patients can sue health care providers who discriminate based on their sexual orientation, and federal law does not exempt health care providers from state civil rights laws. 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. The doctors asked the court of appeal in San Diego to review that ruling and the court ruled in the doctors’ favor. That decision has created confusion about whether or not the California Supreme Court’s Catholic Charities decision applies in this case, which is a main argument in the request for review by the Supreme Court. “I trusted my doctors and then they humiliated my family and me by refusing to perform the insemination procedure after they’d been treating me and promising it to me for nearly a year,” said Lupita Benitez. “Doctors are supposed to treat their patients, not make religious judgments about them, and I don’t want anyone else to have to suffer the humiliating treatment by their doctors that I endured.” Jennifer C. Pizer is the lead attorney on the case for Lambda Legal. She is joined by co-counsel Jon B. Eisenberg, a leading appellate specialist, Robert Welsh, Seph McNamara and Lee Fink of O’Melveny & Myers LLP in Los Angeles, and Albert Gross of Solana Beach, CA. The Case is Benitez v. North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group. ### Mark Roy 212-809-8585 ext.267

Related Issues: Religious Exemptions