The battle between religious freedom and anti-gay discrimination takes a new turn as a California lesbian couple gear up for a trial against two Bible-thumping doctors.
Guadalupe Benitez and girlfriend Joanne Clark filed a lawsuit against fertility doctors Christine Brody and Douglas Fenton for refusing to artificially inseminate Benitez. The doctors claim their religious leaning forbid gay parenting – and, in fact – gays.
Benitez filed the suit back in 2001, but the case’s legal complexities have stalled things a bit. The major issue, of course, is whether Brody and Fenton can use religious freedom as a defense. While they certainly have a right to their religious opinions, California also has strict non-discrimination laws.
In 2005, an appeals court ruled that Brody and Fenton can, in fact, hide behind their religion. Benitez appealed that decision and now the state’s Supreme Court plans to hear – and rule – on the gray-shaded case. Jill Morrison of National Women’s Law Center, however, thinks its pretty black and white:
Usually, providers who object to certain services object to them for everyone: ‘I won’t provide contraception.’ In this case, they don’t object to the service, just the patient. You can’t pick and choose. You can’t say, ‘I will perform it for white people, but not for black people.’
Well, you can say that, but not legally.
Not surprisingly, this particular case has adherents on both sides of the spiritual divide:
The interveners include two dozen gay or civil rights groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which argues that state anti-discrimination laws prohibit doctors from refusing to serve certain patients.
The doctors have drawn support from 16 conservative law centers or religious organizations, ranging from former U.S. attorney general Edwin Meese, who wrote the brief for the American Civil Rights Union, to the Foundation for Free Expression, a California group that calls homosexuality a “sin” in court papers and compares gay activists to “suicide bombers who would destroy themselves while they murder others.” That brief drew a rebuke from the two doctors, who say neither supports “the tone of some of the references” or the “offensive language.”
Well, at least the doctors aren’t all bad – just mostly bad.