Do the rights of religious freedom and free speech, as guaranteed in both the federal and the California Constitutions, exempt a medical clinic’s physicians from complying with the California Unruh Civil Rights Act’s prohibition against discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation? Our answer is no.
In a unanimous decision, the California Supreme Court today reversed an appeals court’s that allowed an improper affirmative defense. And, that improper defense was …
…[an] affirmative defense…stating that defendants’ “alleged misconduct, if any” was protected by the rights of free speech and freedom of religion set forth in the federal and state Constitutions.
This means that a “first amendment” defense against compliance with California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act‘s prohibitions against discrimination isn’t an acceptable reason to discriminate in California’s public marketplace.
The San Diego Union-Tribune summed up the case and ruling as follows:
The California Supreme Court ruled Monday that doctors can’t use their religious beliefs as a reason to refuse treatment to patients because doing so violates the state’s anti-discrimination law.
The unanimous decision came in the case of an Oceanside lesbian couple who are suing two doctors at a North County clinic. They claim the doctors would not perform a certain artificial insemination procedure because their strong Christian beliefs prevented them from impregnating a lesbian couple.
The closely watched case pitted religious freedom rights guaranteed in the constitution against California’s strong anti-discrimination laws, which bar businesses from discriminating against customers and clients based on certain characteristics such as race, gender, age and sexual orientation.
The Los Angeles Times added:
If doctors do not want to help lesbians have children, they must refuse to perform the procedures for all patients, the court said.
The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit by a San Diego woman who contended that Christian doctors at a clinic told her they could not help her become pregnant because their religion condemned having children outside of opposite-sex marriages.
This is a huge win for fair-minded Californians.
Update: Below the fold, fundies’ heads begin to explode…Egads! The end of the world is coming…Again!
Bruce Hausknecht, the judicial analyst for Focus on the Family Action, is duely appauled at the California Supreme Court’s decision:
This case highlights an ominous trend of the law in this country. In a conflict between the homosexual agenda and religious liberty, the homosexual agenda is favored in the courts over the First Amendment.
This opinion is the second of the summer in which the Supreme Court has ‘gone off the rails’ in accommodating a minority agenda at the expense of the sensibilities and constitutional rights of the majority of Californians.
The Attoney Robert Tyler, of the Advocates for Faith and Freedom, warns us about the California Supreme Court’s “radical agenda,” and what how this will another reason why voters will look favorably at Prop 8:
The Supreme Court’s desire to promote the homosexual lifestyle at the risk of infringing upon the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion is what the public needs to learn about. This case will have a direct impact and cause people and look very favorably at Proposition 8.
* Lambda Legal: Benitez v. North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group
* San Francisco Chronicle: State Supreme Court says doctors must treat gays and lesbians