Calif Top Court: Docs Can't Withhold Care to Gays

By: Paul Elias AP
By: Paul Elias AP

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - California's high court Monday barred doctors from withholding medical care to gays and lesbians based on religious beliefs, ruling that state law prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination extends to the medical profession.

In contrast to the state Supreme Court's 4-3 schism in May legalizing gay marriage, which resulted in lengthy majority and dissenting opinions, the unanimous ruling Monday was a succinct 18 pages written by Justice Joyce Kennard.

Kennard wrote 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 obligations."

In the lawsuit that spurred the ruling, Guadalupe Benitez, 36, of Oceanside said that that the doctors treated her with fertility drugs and instructed her how to inseminate herself at home but told her their beliefs prevented them from assisting her further.

The case drew numerous "friends of the court" briefs from a wide variety of religious organizations, medical groups and gay civil rights organizations.

The American Civil Rights Union supported the Christian doctors, siding with the Islamic Medical Association of North America, the Christian Medical & Dental Associations and anti-abortion groups.

The California 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 Christian doctors.

The American Civil Liberties Union, California Attorney General Jerry Brown, the National Health Law Program and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association filed papers backing Benitez.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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