Thursday, June 29, 2006
S.C. Will Not Stop Suit Over School’s Expulsion of Alleged Lesbians
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The California Supreme Court yesterday denied relief to a Christian school being sued for expelling two students allegedly involved in a lesbian relationship.
The justices, who met in San Francisco for their weekly conference, unanimously denied the California Lutheran High School Association’s petition for review. The association, which operates a 142-student school in the Riverside County community of Wildomar, asked the high court to intervene after the Fourth District Court of Appeal summarily denied their writ petition seeking to scuttle a lawsuit by the students’ parents.
The denial allows the plaintiff to proceed with the action, in which Riverside Superior Court Judge largely overruled school officials’ demurrer. The complaint contains causes of action for false imprisonment, unfair business practices, invasion of privacy, and discrimination based on sexual orientation in violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act.
First Amendment Issue
School attorney John McKay of Los Angeles argued that the First Amendment protects the decision of the school’s principal and board to remove the girls from the student body. The school explained in a letter to the girls’ parents that while it had no evidence of any improper physical activity between them, they shared a “bond of intimacy” that was “unchristian.”
The families’ attorneys, from the San Diego firm of Grace Hollis Lowe Hanson & Schaeffer, claim that the girls were subjected to an intrusive interrogation by the principal without the parents’ knowledge or consent. They also argue that because the association collects fees from students and accepts students without regard to religious affiliation, it is a business operator subject to the Unruh Act.
The names of the girls and their parents have never been disclosed. Attorneys have declined to answer reporters’ questions about whether the girls are lesbians.
In other conference action, the justices:
•Informed attorneys for a North San Diego County medical group and the woman who is suing it based on allegations that it refused to perform artificial insemination on her because she is a lesbian that it is limiting the scope of briefing and argument in the case.
The sole issue, the court said in its order, is “Does a physician have a constitutional right to refuse on religious grounds to perform a medical procedure for a patient because of the patient’s sexual orientation?”
The court granted review two weeks ago in Benitez v. Superior Court (North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group), D045438. Guadalupe “Lupita” Benitez claims that two physicians at North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group discriminated against her on the basis of sexual orientation and/or marital status in violation of the Unruh Act.
The Fourth District Court of Appeal’s Div. One ruled that discrimination on the grounds of marital status did not violate the Unruh Act at the time of the events in question; that a triable issue existed as to whether the doctors refused to perform intrauterine insemination on Benitez because she was a lesbian or because she was unmarried, and that the doctors may introduce evidence of their religious and moral beliefs in order to prove that they would not have performed the procedure on any unmarried woman.
The court also held that last year’s California Supreme Court ruling allowing a same-sex couple to sue because they were denied family privileges at a country club has no application to the case. That decision was based on the current version of the Domestic Partner Act, which requires that registered domestic partners be given many of the same rights as married couples, but Div. One declined to apply it because the current domestic partner law was enacted after Benitez sued.
•Summarily denied the latest habeas corpus petition by Martin James Kipp, sentenced to death by Orange Superior Court Judge Donald A. McCartin for a 1983 rape-murder in Huntington Beach.
The justices said that the claim that Kipp—for whom no execution date has been set—is incompetent for execution was premature, that many of his claims were repetitive of claims previously rejected; that some of the issues raised should have been argued on direct appeal; and that other claims were untimely.
Kipp was also sentenced to death by then-Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Nott, who was subsequently elevated to the Court of Appeal before retiring to become a private judge, for the September 1983 murder of Tiffany Frizzell.
Frizzell was found, strangled and apparently raped, in her room at the Long Beach Ramada Inn where she was staying while waiting for her college dormitory to open for the fall term. Kipp’s direct appeal from that conviction was turned down in 2001.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company