Lesbian settles lawsuit over denial of infertility treatment
An Oceanside lesbian whose doctors denied her infertility treatment based on her sexual orientation settled her lawsuit with the physicians for an undisclosed sum, ending eight years of litigation, it was announced Tuesday.
Guadalupe “Lupita” Benitez and her spouse, Joanne Clark, initiated the lawsuit against Benitez’s former doctors at North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group because they felt the defendants treated Benitez differently due to her sexual orientation.
According to a joint statement, 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 Benitez was referred for infertility care to North Coast, which had an exclusive contract with her insurance plan.
After 11 months of preparatory treatments, including medication and surgery, her doctors admitted they would not perform donor insemination for her because she is a lesbian, according to Lambda Legal, a national organization which fights for recognition of civil rights for lesbians and other groups.
The doctors claimed a right to opt out of California’s civil rights law because they hold fundamentalist Christian views and object to treatment a lesbian patient as they treat others, according to Lambda Legal.
Benitez sued, and the case went all the way to the state 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 Benitez, now a mother of three.
“We felt helpless, humiliated and trapped, and it’s been a long, hard fight to get to this point,” she said. “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.”
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