California’s Supreme Court Justices have quite the challenge ahead.
The judicial types this week heard the case of one Guadalupe Benitez, who’s suing fertility doctors for refusing to artificially impregnate her.
Those doctors claim their religious beliefs prevent them from sticking a lesbian, but the justice’s – who recently ruled in favor of gay marriage – don’t seem so sure that religious beliefs can be – or should be – so narrowly defined…
Benitez’s lawyers said the doctors gave the same explanation in sworn declarations but asserted in later depositions that they would refuse the treatment to any unmarried couple. The distinction is potentially important if the case goes to trial because, at the time, California courts had ruled that state law barred businesses from denying service to gays and lesbians but had not yet decided whether the law also prohibited discrimination based on marital status.
[The doctors’ lawyer, Kenneth Pedroza] was questioned skeptically by Justice Carol Corrigan… Corrigan suggested there are only two legal options for doctors with strong religious beliefs: Choose a field of practice that doesn’t conflict with those beliefs or provide their services to anyone who needs them.
Corrigan said Pedroza’s clients had told Benitez, in effect, “I am not going to do it for you because of who you are.”
The Justices now have 90 days to hand down a ruling. Previous cases indicate that the Court will rule in Benitez’s favor. For example, as journalist Bob Egelko points out, the Justices once ruled that a land lady could discriminate against a gay couple. And, on a more related note, a 2004 ruling told Catholic health agencies they had to provide contraception, a caveat for state funding.
The fact that this fertility clinic isn’t state-funded, however, could complicate matters.