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Lambda settles Benitez case | Hunter of Justice

Lambda settles Benitez case

by on October 1, 2009  •  In Health, Reproductive rights

Last year, Lambda Legal won a decision in the California Supreme Court that a private medical practice could not assert the religious beliefs of its doctor-owners as a defense to a claim that a lesbian had been denied services because of her sexual orientation. Yesterday, rather than take the case to trial, the defendants agreed to settle with the plaintiff, Guadalupe Benitez.  Mucho kudos to lead counsel Jenny Pizer.

From the San Diego Union Tribune:

A long-running lawsuit between an Oceanside lesbian couple and two doctors that pitted the civil rights of same-sex couples against religious freedom for physicians has been settled. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed. It ends a lawsuit filed in 2001 by Guadalupe Benitez against Drs. Douglas Fenton and Christine Brody at North Coast Women's Care in Vista.

Benitez alleged that the doctors told her they would not inseminate her because their religious convictions – they are Christians – prohibited them from doing the procedure for a lesbian couple. Benitez went to another doctor, got pregnant and had a child with her partner, Joanne Clark. The boy is now 7. The couple also have 4-year-old twins….

  … [T]he doctors and the couple released a joint statement in which the doctors said they were sorry that Benitez and Clark felt they were being treated differently because of their sexual orientation. The doctors said they want “all of their patients, including those who are lesbian and gay, to feel welcome and accepted in their medical practice, and are committed to treating all of their patients with equal dignity and respect in the context of the highest quality of medical care.”

The doctors contended as the case went on that they declined to do the procedure because Benitez was unmarried – not because of her sexual orientation. But there was also evidence in the case early on that the doctors had acknowledged that they did not inseminate her because she is a lesbian….

“It was a really hard thing to go through, but it was worth it because we have hopefully paved the way for other people, and made sure that this is not going to happen to someone else,” [Benitez] said….

The state's civil rights law … allow[s] doctors to opt out of some kinds of medical procedures, such as abortion. But if a physician does offer to do certain procedures, they must be made available to all, said Jennifer Pizer of Lambda Legal, an advocacy group for same-sex rights.

While the exact amount of the settlement is private, Pizer said it was enough so that the couple's children “will be able to have whatever type of education they want to have in the future.” …

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One Response to Lambda settles Benitez case

  1. Jay October 1, 2009 at 10:39 AM

    The doctors said they want “all of their patients, including those who are lesbian and gay, to feel welcome and accepted in their medical practice, and are committed to treating all of their patients with equal dignity and respect in the context of the highest quality of medical care.”

    Yeah, right.

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