court on Monday barred doctors from withholding medical
care from gays and lesbians based on religious beliefs,
ruling that state law prohibiting sexual orientation
discrimination extends to the medical profession.
The ruling was
unanimous, a contrast to the state supreme court's 4-3
schism in May legalizing gay marriage.
Kennard wrote in the ruling that two Christian fertility
doctors who refused to artificially inseminate a lesbian
have neither a free speech right nor a religious
exemption from the state's law, which "imposes on
business establishments certain antidiscrimination
In the lawsuit
that led to the ruling, Guadalupe Benitez, 36, of
Oceanside, said the doctors treated her with fertility drugs
and instructed her in how to inseminate herself at
home but told her their beliefs prevented them from
assisting her further.
North Coast Women's Care Medical Group in 2001 under a state
law that prohibits for-profit businesses from arbitrarily
discriminating against clients. She won in trial court
but lost an appeals court decision. That was
The law was
originally designed to prevent hotels, restaurants, and
other public services from refusing to serve patrons
because of their race. The legislature has since
expanded it to cover characteristics such as age and
"It was an awful
thing to go through," Benitez said at a San Diego
press conference. "It was very painful -- the fact that you
have someone telling you they will not help you because of
who you are, that they will deny your right to be a
mother and have a family."
Benitez has given
birth to three children through artificial insemination
-- Gabriel, 6, and twin daughters Sophia and Shane, who turn
3 this weekend. She is raising them in Oceanside with
her longtime partner, Joanne Clark.
Benitez's attorney, said the ruling was "a victory for
public health" and that she expected it to have nationwide
"It was clear and
emphatic that discrimination has no place in doctors'
offices," Pizer said.
The case drew
numerous friend-of-the-court briefs.
Civil Rights Union supported the Christian doctors, siding
with the Islamic Medical Association of North America, the
Christian Medical and Dental Associations, and
Medical Association reversed its early support of the
Christian doctors after receiving a barrage of criticism
from the gay rights community, joining health care
provider Kaiser Foundation Health Plan to oppose the
Civil Liberties Union, California attorney general Jerry
Brown, the National Health Law Program, and the Gay and
Lesbian Medical Association filed papers backing