An Oceanside, California, lesbian, whose doctors denied her infertility treatment based on her sexual orientation, has reached a settlement with her former physicians in a lawsuit against them.
In a joint statement ending eight years of litigation, Guadalupe “Lupita” Benítez and her former doctors at North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group said the parties have reached a mutually satisfactory settlement of the litigation for an undisclosed sum of money.
In 1999, Benítez and her spouse, Joanne Clark, were referred for infertility care to North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group, which had an exclusive contract with her insurance plan. After 11 months of preparatory treatments, including medication and unnecessary surgery, her doctors said they would not perform donor insemination for her because she is a lesbian.
The doctors claimed a right to opt out of California’s civil rights law because they hold fundamentalist Christian views and they object to treating a lesbian patient as they treat others. Benítez sued, and the case made its way to the California Supreme Court, which ruled last year that Benítez was entitled to be treated like other patients with her same health problem, and that constitutional protections for religious liberty do not excuse unlawful discrimination.
“The statement issued by North Coast is an extremely encouraging sign of progress,” said Lambda Legal marriage project director, Jennifer C. Pizer, who argued Benítez v. North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group before the Supreme Court. “We’ve seen religion used time and time again to justify discrimination based on race, gender, religious difference, and now sexual orientation. But those who would treat some people differently than others need to know that, regardless of motive, antigay discrimination causes real harm to real people, and it can be very expensive.” – Nancy Ford