'Regardless of motive, antigay discrimination causes real harm to real
people, and it can be very expensive.'
(San Diego, September 29, 2009)— An Oceanside lesbian whose doctors denied
her infertility treatment based on her sexual orientation has reached a
settlement with her former physicians in her historic 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. Guadalupe Benitez and her
spouse Joanne Clark initiated the lawsuit because they felt that the
defendants treated Ms. Benitez differently due to her sexual orientation.
The defendants are sincerely sorry that Ms. Benitez and Ms. Clark have felt
this way, and have never meant to treat Ms. Benitez with disrespect.
Defendants want all of their patients, including those who are lesbian and
gay, to feel welcome and accepted in their medical practice, and are
committed to treating all of their patients with equal dignity and respect
in the context of the highest quality of medical care.'
The case began in 1999, when Benítez was referred for infertility care to
North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group, which had an exclusive contract
with her insurance plan. After eleven months of preparatory treatments,
including medication and unnecessary surgery, her doctors finally admitted
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 Benitez 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.
'I didn’t look for this fight; my doctors forced it on me,' said Benítez,
now a mother of three. '¨We felt helpless, humiliated and trapped, and
it’s been a long, hard fight to get to this point. But we know we've made
a difference in the law that will help people in California and, hopefully,
across the country. We are very proud of that.'
Lambda Legal Marriage Project Director Jennifer C. Pizer argued the case
before the Supreme Court.
"The statement issued by North Coast is an extremely encouraging sign of
progress," said Pizer. "It shows a journey that our whole society is
taking together, away from intolerance and towards inclusion. Ten years
ago, Lupita’s doctors wouldn’t recognize her commitment to her life partner
Joanne – now, they acknowledge Joanne as Lupita's spouse. 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. Lupita and Joanne's kids can be
proud of their moms, and thanks to this settlement, can all pursue whatever
education and opportunities they choose."
The case name is Benitez v. North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group.