Health care access is a constant issue in modern America. The poor of our country have so little of it due to finances. Many rural residents don't have it simply because there are no health professionals nearby. Then there is an aspect of access I don't believe I have touched upon until now: access for gays.
That sort of discrimination, rooted in this case in religious beliefs of the practitioners, was determined illegal yesterday.
Via The Associated Press:
There are more than enough hurdles to be leaped over when navigating the American health care system as it currently stands. Adding discrimination to that array is something that the California court and I agree on. It should not be done. Since the business of health care is huge, as evinced by statistics shared in prior posts here and numerous reports elsewhere, it should be held to the same antidiscrimination practices as other businesses that cater to the general public.
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.
Justice Joyce Kennard wrote 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."
It also seems that I am not alone in thinking that this is a decision that could well have far reaching implications on the national level as well:
It is good to see that while the debates rage on about other issues impacting the gay community, the line has been drawn on the fundamental right to health care. Despite, as one might imagine, a wide variety of groups supporting the Christian doctors, an even wider array of groups stepped up to the plate in favor of an end to these practices.
Jennifer Pizer, [Guadalupe] Benitez's [the plaintiff's] attorney, said that the ruling was "a victory for public health" and that she expected it to have nationwide influence.
"It was clear and emphatic that discrimination has no place in doctors' offices," Pizer said.
The ruling was unanimous and a succinct 18 pages, a contrast to the state Supreme Court's 4-3 schism in May legalizing marriage between same-sex couples.
While The American Civil Rights Union, The Islamic Medical Association of North America, the Christian Medical & Dental Associations and a variety of anti-abortion groups fought against it support from across the spectrum was forthcoming from an even wider array of groups.
The California Medical Association reversed its early support of the Christian doctors after receiving a barrage of criticism from gay rights activists, joining health care provider Kaiser Foundation Health Plan to oppose the Christian doctors.
The American Civil Liberties Union, California Attorney General Jerry Brown, the National Health Law Program and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association filed papers backing Benitez.
All in all, it was a good day in court, one which takes us a small step closer to universal health care, and access thereof.
SOURCE: "Calif top court: Docs can't withhold care to gays" 08/18/08
photo courtesy of Made Underground, used under its Creative Commons license