Calif. Supreme Court Rules for Gay Couple Denied Fertility Treatments
Posted Aug 19, 2008 5:55 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
The California Supreme Court has ruled that the state’s anti-discrimination law bars two physicians from refusing to provide artificial insemination to a lesbian couple because of their sexual orientation.
"The First Amendment's right to the free exercise of religion," the court said, "does not exempt defendant physicians here from conforming their conduct to the act's anti-discrimination requirements.”
The decision (PDF) is the first in the nation to address doctor’s religious objections to treating gay and lesbian patients, lawyer Jennifer Pizer told the San Francisco Chronicle. Pizer represents one of the plaintiffs and works for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.
The ruling follows the court’s May decision finding a right to same-sex marriage in the state, the Recorder reports. While the court split 4-3 on gay marriage, its ruling yesterday was unanimous, the Daily Journal reports (sub. req.).
The opinion said the physicians were free to argue at trial that they objected to treating the plaintiffs not because of sexual orientation but because they had qualms about performing the procedure on unmarried couples.
The two physicians could avoid violations of the Unruh Civil Rights Act by referring patients they don’t want to treat because of religious objections to other clinic doctors, the court said.