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The California supreme court on Wednesday agreed to hear a case that will decide whether doctors can deny treatment to gay and lesbian patients solely on religious grounds, the Associated Press reports. The high court said it will review the case of two Southern California fertility doctors, Christine Brody and Douglas Fenton, who refused to artificially inseminate a lesbian. The Christian doctors, however, do not object to treating married patients requiring insemination.
"These physicians do not believe that it is necessarily appropriate for a woman to have a baby out of wedlock," the doctors' attorney, Robert Tyler, told the AP. "Should a Christian be forced to artificially inseminate an unmarried woman when it goes contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs?"
Jennifer Pizer, a Lambda Legal attorney who's representing the plaintiff, Guadalupe Benitez, said it's discrimination under state law for the doctors to refuse treatment. The core issue of the case, she said, "is whether religious beliefs provide a free pass, or an exception, to the civil rights law."
Pizer noted that doctors are allowed to opt out of end-of-life procedures but shouldn't be allowed to say that they'll "pull the plug based on whether you're married or not."
The California Medical Association told the lower courts that legal and ethical standards prohibit physicians from discriminating but allow them to refuse to perform certain procedures on religious grounds if they refuse such treatment for all patients. The association originally backed the two fertility doctors but later withdrew that support.
A state appeals court last year sided with Brody and Fenton. Benitez, who was artificially inseminated elsewhere and now has a 4-year-old boy, appealed. The supreme court justices neither commented on the case Wednesday nor said when they would decide the outcome. (The Advocate)