California: appeals court rules in favor of doctors in lesbian insemination case

A state appellate court ruled that two fertility doctors had the right to refuse to artificially inseminate a lesbian on the grounds that it would have violated their religious beliefs.

The 4th District Court of Appeals ruling Friday reversed a lower court decision that had said Dr. Christine Brody and Dr. Douglas Fenton could not use religion as a defense against a lawsuit filed by Guadalupe Benitez.

Instead, the 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 California law.

An attorney for a gay rights group said the decision would be appealed to the California Supreme Court.

"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 Jennifer Pizer, attorney for Lambda Legal Defense. "The bottom line is that you should not be able to treat patients in a discriminatory way."

Benitez, 33, sued the doctors and their small practice in Vista in 2001, claiming their actions violated California's anti-discrimination laws.

The doctors contended they denied treatment because Benitez and her registered domestic partner of 15 years were not married. Benitez's attorneys argued that she was denied because of her sexual orientation, not her marital status.

Benitez was eventually treated elsewhere and gave birth to a boy, now 3 years old, reported AP. P.T.

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