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Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris has been on the forefront of championing marriage equality and the fundamental civil rights of same-sex couples. As Attorney General Harris argued in a friend-of-the-court brief filed with the United States Supreme Court in the historic Hollingsworth v. Perry case, "To be clear, Proposition 8's sole purpose was to prevent same-sex couples from marrying. There is absolutely no legitimate or rational state interest in doing so. Proposition 8 is therefore unconstitutional." More information regarding Attorney General Harris' engagement on marriage equality can be found at https://oag.ca.gov/news/press-releases/attorney-general-kamala-d-harris-celebrates-marriage-equality-asks-ninth-circuit.

The Office of the Attorney General has also participated in significant cases to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation by business establishments, including North Coast Women's Medical Group v. Superior Court (2008) 44 Cal 4th 1145. In that case, the Attorney General filed a friend-of-the court brief in the California Supreme Court in support of a woman who was reportedly refused fertilization services by a medical practice because she was an unmarried lesbian. The medical practice asserted that its actions were protected by the constitutional right to free exercise of religion. The Attorney General's brief argued that a religious objection defense is unavailable in a state civil rights enforcement action under the Unruh Civil Rights Act. The California Supreme Court agreed, unanimously holding that physicians do not have a constitutional right to discriminate based on sexual orientation in violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, even if the discrimination is based on their religious beliefs.

In 2004, the Office of the Attorney General filed a friend-of-the court brief in the California Supreme Court in support of a lesbian couple who were denied family membership benefits at a county club at which one of them was a member. The couple were registered domestic partners under California law. In this brief, the Attorney General argued that treating registered domestic partners differently from married couples in the provision of any accommodation, advantage, facility, privilege or service by a business establishment, without a legitimate business reason for such differentiation, is a violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act. We further argued that there is no legitimate interest in refusing to offer membership benefits to registered domestic partners on the same basis as they are offered to married couples. The California Supreme Court agreed, holding that the Unruh Civil Rights Act prohibited the country club from discriminating between married couples and registered domestic partners in the provision of its services and benefits. The case is entitled, Koepke v. Bernardo Heights Country Club (2005) 36 Cal.4th 824.

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