The California Medical Association, which came under fire from gay rights groups after it filed legal papers backing two Southern California doctors who refused to provide artificial insemination to a lesbian, has withdrawn the controversial brief. CMA Chief Executive Officer Jack Lewin said that the brief was retracted because of a recent California Supreme Court ruling holding that businesses must treat same-sex couples the same as married couples under the state's domestic partnership law.
"The CMA continues to believe that the defendant physicians deserve a right to due process and a jury trial," Lewin said in a statement released Tuesday. "However, it is clear that the CMA's policy commitment to oppose any form of invidious discrimination had been so significantly confused and misrepresented, that it was in the best interest of CMA to withdraw the brief."
Guadalupe Benitez sued the North Coast Women's Care Medical Group in Vista, Calif., for discrimination after alleging two of the group's physicians refused to inseminate her because of her sexual orientation. The clinic's doctors have argued that they should not have to treat women like Benitez because inseminating an unmarried woman contradicts their religious convictions.
Oral arguments are scheduled before the state's Fourth District Court of Appeals in San Diego on Oct. 11. The CMA wants to file a new brief arguing that neither Benitez's sexual orientation nor her marital status was medically relevant to whether her doctors were obliged to treat her.
Gay rights groups applauded the association's move. "The CMA is affirming principles of nondiscrimination in healthcare that they have stood for a long time," said Joel Ginsberg, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association in San Francisco. "We are pleased to see them clarify their position and come out strongly against discrimination based on one's sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status."
The CMA's new brief states that legal and ethical standards prohibit physicians from discriminating, but says they can refuse to perform certain procedures on religious grounds, if they refuse such treatment for all patients.