You can’t know how important President Obama’s directive to Health and Human Services is if you haven’t experienced discrimination based on hospital visitation.
You can’t understand how insidious the arguments against it that I’ve heard this morning are if you haven’t experienced the horror of dealing with the legality of taking care of a loved one in a hostile environment unless you’ve experienced it.
Jon Benov was my former partner and closest friend. In the late 1980s, Jon had AIDS.
For the final three and a half months of his life, he was in Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta. The nurses and staff were wonderful. All legal papers were in place. His current partner, Luis, had full power of attorney and medical power of attorney. I was to be consulted on ALL decisions. His parents? Not so much.
Jon loved his parents and they loved him. They were part of the original group of 10 Parents of Gays (now PFLAG) in Greenwich Village in 1975. But making rational decisions about his medical care? He knew better than to leave it to his family.
Rather than honor Jon’s wishes (as stated in his powers of attorney), they took us to court two weeks before he died. Rather than sitting by his bed, we were talking to a Georgia Family Court judge in 1989. Although the paperwork was in place, the judge ruled against it and now decisions would have to be shared with his mother.
The arguments against Obama’s directive are that he’s undermining traditional marriage. Would these bastards who hate us have preferred that Jon suddenly get up from his death bed and marry a woman? That seems to be their message. If you don’t get married, we’ll decide who takes care of you. Not you. Or maybe their real message is “We don’t like you. Die alone.”
We’re always told to make sure we have all of our paperwork in place. Opponents tell us we can get all the protections we need without marriage. Just do the legal paperwork. But even then, they’ll take you to court to challenge it.
Obama’s directive is simple. If Jon named me to make his final medical decisions, then I should make his final medical decisions. If Jon wanted me in the hospital room with him, then I should be in the hospital room with him. Preventing me from doing so, did not advance the cause of straight marriage.
Jon died 20 years ago in January. I still miss him, but yesterday’s event helped give me some closure. Thank you. I hope it helps other people.
(Oh, and sorry for posting the really crappy picture of you, Jon. This morning, I was looking for one without that damn mustache that you know I hated. Couldn’t find any better ones.)