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Case Summary & History

Additional Civil Rights

Case: Benitez v. North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group

STATUS: CA, California Supreme Court

Guadalupe “Lupita” Benitez was denied infertility treatment by her Southern California healthcare providers because she is a lesbian. The trial court rejected the doctors’ claim that they do not have to follow California’s anti-discrimination law because they have religious objections to serving lesbian patients. On December 5, 2005, the Court of Appeal reversed this decision and said that the doctors must be given an opportunity to demonstrate that their refusal to treat Benitez was not based on her sexual orientation. Benitez appealed the decision to the California Supreme Court, and NCLR filed an amicus brief in support of Benitez, who was represented by Lambda Legal.

In a unanimous opinion issued on August 18, 2008, the California Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeal, and upheld the trial court’s original decision. The Supreme Court held that non-discrimination laws regulate discriminatory conduct, not speech or beliefs, and that medical providers cannot violate those laws based on asserted religious objections to providing services to LGBT people.

The opposition’s petition for rehearing was denied on in October, 2008.

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