Gay rights activists bemoan doctor’s treatment refusal

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Oak Park — Local gay rights activists say it’s all too familiar: A lesbian couple’s pediatrician dumped their child as a patient because of her parents’ sexual orientation.

They say discrimination against members of the LGBT community is a major concern.

While the doctor’s decision to not keep the child of two gay parents as a patient may not be illegal, it does go against the ethics of the nation’s largest organization representing physicians across the country.

A spokesman for the American Medical Association said Thursday “the regulation of medical professionals occurs at the state level and is governed by the directives of the local state Legislature.”

But the association’s “ethical opinions” do discourage physicians from refusing care based on “race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other criteria that would constitute invidious discrimination.”

Krista Contreras and her wife, Jami, told WJBK-TV the pediatrician, who practices in Roseville, stopped seeing their daughter as a patient shortly after the child was born in October 2014.

The couple was wed in Vermont in 2012.

The Contrerases told WJBK they were happy with the doctor when they met her in September, weeks before they were due.

“The kind of care she offered, we liked her personality, she seemed pretty friendly,” Krista Contreras said.

Once Bay was born, they took her to an appointment with the doctor. But instead of seeing the doctor they had initially met they were turned over to another pediatrician.

“The first thing (the new doctor) said was ‘I’ll be your doctor, I’ll be seeing you today because (the doctor) decided this morning that she prayed on it and she won’t be able to care for Bay,” Jami Contreras said.

Gay rights activists such as Gregory Varnum of Equality Michigan say the Contreras’ case points out why sexual orientation and other gender issues should be included in Michigan’s anti-discrimination Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

“Efforts for a possible ballot initiative are going well, and we are confident that if we do in fact have to take this issue to the ballot that we will win,” Varnum said.

The rejection was hurtful, Jami Contreras said.

“As far as we know Bay doesn’t have a sexual orientation yet so I’m not really sure what that matters,” Jami Contreras said. “We’re not your patient — she’s your patient. And the fact is that your job is to keep babies healthy and you can’t keep a baby healthy that has gay parents?”

University of Detroit Mercy law school professor Lawrence Dubin said the case raises many constitutional questions.

“A refusal to provide medical services to a particular group of people (e.g., same-sex couples or their children) based on religious grounds can raise serious constitutional issues since the doctor in question provides services pursuant to a state license,” Dubin said Wednesday. “What further complicates the legal landscape is that Michigan’s non-discrimination law (Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act) protects most groups of people, but shamefully fails to include sexual orientation.

State Rep. John Chirkun, D-Roseville, said the doctor’s action is “another example of why we need to extend our civil rights laws to cover LGBT Michiganders so that this kind of discrimination stops. Sadly, what this doctor did is legal in Michigan.”

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