President Obama orders hospital visitation rights for gay and lesbian partners

Posted on 15 Apr 2010 at 7:04pm

President Barack Obama issued a memorandum Thursday directing the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a rule prohibiting hospitals from denying visitation to gay and lesbian partners. According to the Human Rights Campaign, the memorandum was inspired by the case of Janice Langbehn and Lisa Pond, in which Langbehn was kept from Pond’s bedside as she lay dying at a Miami hospital in 2007.

“There are few moments in our lives that call for greater compassion and companionship than when a loved one is admitted to the hospital,” the memorandum begins. “In these hours of need and moments of pain and anxiety, all of us would hope to have a hand to hold, a shoulder on which to lean — a loved one to be there for us, as we would be there for them.”

The memorandum goes on to say that gays and lesbians are “uniquely affected” because they’re “often barred from the bedsides of the partners with whom they may have spent decades of their lives — unable to be there for the person they love, and unable to act as a legal surrogate if their partner is incapacitated.”

In addition to drafting the rule prohibiting discrimination, the memorandum directs the department to make recommendations about what other steps it “can take to address hospital visitation, medical decisionmaking, or other health care issues that affect LGBT patients and their families.”

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, issued this response:

“Discrimination touches every facet of the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, including at times of crisis and illness, when we need our loved ones with us more than ever. No one should experience what befell the Pond-Langbehn family, and the President’s action today will help ensure that the indignities Janice and her children faced do not happen to another family.”

To read Obama’s full memorandum, go here.

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