Scroll To Top

GLMA objects to California Medical Association's position in sexual orientation discrimination case (16362)

16362Health News2005-06-25

GLMA objects to California Medical Association's position in sexual orientation discrimination case

The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, a nonprofit organization working to end homophobia in health care, this week urged the California Medical Association to withdraw its friend-of-the-court brief from a case involving two obstetricians who denied fertility care to a San Diego woman because she is a lesbian.

In the lawsuit Guadalupe Benitez, represented by Lambda Legal, charged that her doctors refused to inseminate her after she had received 11 months of preparatory treatment from the clinic. The doctors claimed that because of their personal religious beliefs about gay people, they would not administer the treatment and asserted that their fundamentalist Christian beliefs exempt them from California's civil rights laws.

In May the California Medical Association filed an amicus brief in favor of the doctors who discriminated against Benitez. A few weeks later, the Christian Medical and Dental Association filed its own amicus brief.

"Objecting to the morality of a procedure is one thing. Objecting to the morality of a patient is another," says GLMA interim executive director Joel Ginsberg. "Since 1990 the American Medical Association Code of Ethics has stated, 'Physicians cannot refuse to care for patients based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or any other criteria that would constitute invidious discrimination.'"

Jennifer C. Pizer, senior counsel in Lambda Legal's Western Regional Office in Los Angeles, said, "The California Medical Association wants it both ways--you can't on one hand say that discrimination is bad then on the other provide a road map for how to deny treatment for a particular group of people. CMA's decision to enter this case in support of discrimination against patients is extremely distressing."

Lambda Legal has filed legal papers urging the California state appeals court to reject the arguments of the CMA's brief.

"There is a documented, systemic problem of homophobia in health care that has real consequences," Ginsberg said. "The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology has just filed a document, 'Special Issues in Women's Health,' that addresses this very subject. Unfortunately, the CMA's support of discrimination will only make things worse."

Benitez's lawsuit was thrown out of state court initially, but she won an appeal two years ago that said patients can sue health care providers who discriminate against them based on their sexual orientation, and federal law does not exempt health care providers from state civil rights laws. Last fall 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 before trial and the court ordered both sides to submit briefs. The parties' briefs can be found at

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Outtraveler Staff