Refusal to Treat Lesbian Upheld

Times Staff Writer

A state appeals court ruled Friday that two fertility doctors had the right to refuse to artificially inseminate a lesbian based on her marital status because it would have violated their religious beliefs.

The ruling reversed a lower court decision that Drs. Christine Brody and Douglas Fenton could not use religion as a defense against a lawsuit filed by Guadalupe T. Benitez, 33.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. Dec. 8, 2005 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday December 08, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 4 inches; 138 words Type of Material: Correction
Court ruling -- An article in the California section Saturday about a state appeals court decision in a San Diego County case inaccurately reported the stance of the California Medical Assn. The case involved two doctors’ refusal to artificially inseminate a woman who is unmarried and a lesbian; the article said the doctors’ defense against the lawsuit filed by the woman was supported by the California Medical Assn. That information about the association came from the written decision by the appeals court and was based on the fact that the medical association initially had supported the doctors and filed a brief. But the association had requested and been granted the right to rescind its support before the decision was handed down. That, however, is not reflected in the written decision, which lists the association as supporting the doctors.

An attorney for a gay rights group said the decision would be appealed to the California Supreme Court out of concern that the ruling could encourage other discrimination against gays and lesbians on religious grounds.


“We fear this decision is going to worsen the confusion in the minds of the public about whether you can legally discriminate in the name of religion,” said Jenny Pizer, attorney for Lambda Legal Defense. “The bottom line is that you should not be able to treat patients in a discriminatory way.”

On a 3-0 ruling, the appeals panel found that the doctors were within their rights because they based their decision on Benitez’s unmarried status and that discrimination based on marital status is not prohibited by state law.

Benitez, of Oceanside, was denied the insemination treatment by the two doctors at the North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group in Vista after 11 months of preliminary treatment.

She received the treatment at another clinic, became pregnant and gave birth to a boy.

Benitez went to the North Coast group at the direction of her insurance carrier. In the court case, she alleges that she had to beg for another referral when the doctors refused her insemination request.

The California Medical Assn. and the Christian Medical and Dental associations joined in the doctors’ defense.

The physicians asserted that they would refuse to artificially inseminate any unmarried woman, regardless of her sexual orientation.