The Right to Say “No”

FormerlyGay has picked up on a news story in California:

California’s highest court on Monday barred doctors from invoking their religious beliefs as a reason to deny treatment to gays and lesbians, ruling that state law prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination extends to the medical profession.

The ruling was unanimous and a succinct 18 pages, a contrast to the state Supreme Court’s 4-3 schism in May legalizing gay marriage.

Justice Joyce Kennard wrote in the ruling that two Christian fertility doctors who refused to artificially inseminate a lesbian have neither a free speech right nor a religious exemption from the state’s law, which "imposes on business establishments certain antidiscrimination obligations."

In the lawsuit that led to the ruling, Guadalupe Benitez, 36, of Oceanside said that the doctors treated her with fertility drugs and instructed her how to inseminate herself at home but told her their beliefs prevented them from inseminating her. One of the doctors referred her to another fertility specialist without moral objections and Benitez has since given birth to three children.

Nevertheless, Benitez in 2001 sued the Vista-based North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group. She and her lawyers successfully argued that a state law prohibiting businesses from discriminating based on sexual orientation applies to doctors.

FormerlyGay had this to say:

Now look. I’m fat and I’m disabled and I was once gay. If that’s not the trifecta of discrimination, I don’t know what is. In terms of mental anguish for someone refusing to treat you themselves and referring you to another provider who will provide those services free and clear — frankly, you got off rather well. There are other people who would provide you poor service, if any, and there are others who would make sure you were as uncomfortable as possible. That they told you to move along is sad and ignorant, defnitely not a Christ-like example, but the results could have been so very much worse.

However. And this is a big freakin’ caveat:

What if it’s not just insemination services the next time? What if it’s breast cancer? A virus? HIV? What if it’s a disease where days and hours make a difference between life and death? There is a “morning after” pill available from pharmacists if you think that you have been accidentally exposed to the HIV virus that makes contracting the disease less likely. If a pharmacist declines to issue you those medications because they don’t approve of your “lifestyle,” that moral judgment they make could have a direct and disastrous impact on your health!

Hmmmm. Here’s my response:

Can I offer another perspective? Here in the UK legislation has been passed that forces adoption agencies to treat same-sex couples identically to other couples, not permitting them to not offer children for adoption because of religious beliefs. The Roman Catholic adoption agencies offered to refer any same-sex couples that came to them to other agencies, but the Government wouldn’t have any of it. The result is that most of the RC adoption agencies are going to shut down rather than violate their consciences.

Surely such a decision (to refer a client to someone else when there is a clash with your conscience AND the condition is not requiring immediate action) is different to denying emergency medical treatment? I also can’t see the similarity between this and treating cancer, HIV etc, because in each case the treatment of the illness doesn’t in any way support directly an unholy lifestyle?

I’m the first to pull conservatives up for behaviour that is blatantly homophobic, but in this case I think the point you are trying to make is stretched slightly.

It’s a subject that I’ve written on before and I’m still divided on what I actually think. I’m opposed to discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, but I’m also in favour of those with traditional religious beliefs being allowed to hold them in conscience.

What do you think?

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