Baylor updates its definition of family, sort of

Earlier this year, an executive order from President Barack Obama went into effect requiring hospitals to allow same-sex partner visitation.

This week, the Baylor Health Care System sent a memo to its employees explaining its new policy. A copy of the memo was obtained by Instant Tea. While the policy doesn’t specifically address LGBT families, it allows patients to define who their families are.

It doesn’t appear as though the new policy will have any impact on the Baylor-owned Tom Landry Fitness Center, which refuses to sell family memberships to same-sex couples. But here’s what the Health Care System wrote:

Beginning in January, Baylor began asking inpatients System-wide to specify who they consider “family” to support them during their stay. The goal: to implement open access in all inpatient units, outpatient departments, critical care units and emergency departments System-wide during FY11.

Why Open Access?

·         Significant evidence-based literature supports the benefits of family presence for patients.

·         Benefits include reduced anxiety, improved outcomes, reduced lengths of stay, better discharge planning and fewer re-hospitalizations.

·         Having loved ones help manage the flow of information and learning heightens the patient’s confidence and compliance with recommendations.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and The Joint Commission require that patients be afforded the right to have a support person during their stay unless it infringes on others’ rights or safety or is medically or therapeutically contraindicated.

What is the Support Person’s Role?

·       Patients have the right to define a support person and decide how he or she will be involved in care, care planning and decision-making.

·       Involvement may include participation in shift report, rounds and private consultation as long as confidential health information is shared only with the patient’s consent.

We appreciate your support at Baylor continues its journey toward a patient- and family-centered model and implements open access across the System.

—  David Taffet

We R Family: Rosie ex Kelli Carpenter keeps hope afloat with new take on queer cruise

CHANGE IN PROGRAMMING | The gay travel company R Family Vacations, co-founded by Gregg Kaminsky and Kelli Carpenter, above, is changing things up with its travel options. They are now offering bigger, mainstream cruise options for LGBT families, a Club Med week and new adults-only packages.

TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

R Family Vacations was born out of its co-founder’s desire to give her children — and the children of other same-sex couples — at least that one week out of the year when their families were the “norm.”

When Kelli Carpenter and Gregg Kaminsky founded the company in 2003, their primary focus was to provide a place where LGBT couples and families could enjoy a vacation experience with other families like their own. Carpenter and her former partner, Rosie O’Donnell, have four children themselves.

“Ro and I were searching for a place where our own children wouldn’t feel so alone,” says Carpenter, who was in Dallas recently to promote R Family’s 2011 line-up of vacation events.

“It’s hard to describe the feeling on one of our vacations,” she says. “I usually just leave it to the people who have been on one of our trips, and what they usually say: It is a sense of community, of, for once, being with other families like yours, that the children really look forward to. There is so much laughter and such a sense of joy and camaraderie that you can’t find anyplace else.”

“A lot of the families that come on board an R Family cruise live in the middle of Idaho or somewhere like that where there are no other families like theirs anywhere around. And their tears and their joy are so intense because this is the one place where they can actually feel that sense of family, that sense of knowing there are other families like theirs out there.”

All-women cruises for lesbians and all-men cruises for gay men were already common when R Family came about. But Carpenter and O’Donnell felt “That’s not what [our] life looks like. Our community has changed. If you are a woman, and you have two sons and you want to go on vacation with your best friend who is a gay man, an all-woman cruise or an all-guy cruise isn’t the place for that.”

And the community has changed even more since the first R Family cruise in 2004. Now R Family clients aren’t just same-sex couples with their children. More and more often, couples are bringing their straight parents and siblings along, as well as their chosen families. Even same-sex couples without children are opting for R Family vacations to take advantage of the family-friendly atmosphere where their straight family members will feel comfortable and welcome, too, Carpenter says.

That change, coupled with the recession that curtailed many people’s vacation plans, has prompted R Family to find ways to reach out to new clients.

“There were a lot of businesses that were really hard hit by the recession. Considering that we are a luxury product, I think we downsized at just the right time and in just the right way,” Carpenter says. “We had built up to two cruises a year, and then, as the economy started to go down, we went back to just one full ship a year. We were starting to run out of itineraries, and we were getting a lot of requests for something different.”

Last year, R Family offered something different: Instead of a cruise ship completely for R Family vacationers, the group started offering group trips on larger, mainstream cruises. Carpenter said while she had some reservations at first about taking a group of LGBT families on a cruise with mainstream families, her fears were soon laid to rest.

“I went in emotionally prepared for some issue to crop up, and there was none. It was kind of nice for our families to have each other to rely on and at the same time, to be able to look at the other families and realize that underneath it all, we looked just like everyone else on the boat,” she says.

Also last year, for the first time, R Family offered something other than a cruise: A week for LGBT families at Club Med in Ixtapa.

“The Club Med week was a tremendous success, and not just for our regular cruisers who wanted something different for a change,” Carpenter says. “This year, we are offering a week at Club Med Sandpiper in Florida, and I think it will be even more successful.”

Despite brighter prospects for the economy, many families are still cutting back on luxury expenses like vacations. Even though last year’s Club Med trip was less expensive than a cruise, it still required travel abroad, and airfare isn’t cheap.

That’s why Carpenter expects the “Summer Camp” Club Med Sandpiper week, July 9–16, to be even more popular. Families can make the trip by car rather than having to fly.

“The Club Med resorts always offer plenty of activities, but for the R Family weeks, we completely start over as far as entertainment and programming. We will have top-notch comedians and theatrical performances for the grown-ups. Every night there will be a different, unique performance. The company will also offer its first adult-only vacation this year, in response to the growing number of requests for something a little more adventurous from gay men and lesbians who want to vacation together.”

The week-long adults-only package aboard the Norwegian Epic sails from Miami to the Western Caribbean March 5. Other packages include a family vacation aboard the Norwegian Jewel Feb. 20, and the R Family cruise returns with a trip aboard the Norwegian Jade from Venice to four Greek islands departing Aug. 6.

“We are glad that we are able to offer all these options, and to do it in a way that doesn’t put the company at risk,” Carpenter says. “There are a lot of families with children that really count on these vacations every year. It’s a chance for these kids to see that they are not alone, a chance to get to see their parents be together and express affection for each other in public, and to have a safe environment to do that in.

“I think our company and the growth of our company is reflective of what I wish the whole world looked like — someplace the entire family can be themselves and be comfortable being themselves.

For more information, visit FamilyVacations.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

All families deserve equal access to housing

Editor’s Note: The following article was submitted by U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan in the wake of last week’s announcement that HUD has proposed new rules ensuring that LGBT families will not face discrimination in access to housing.

SHAUN DONOVAN  |  Special Contributor

Martin Luther King Jr. famously said that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Last month, we were reminded of Dr. King’s insight once again, as President Barack Obama signed legislation repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” into law.

It was a moment, the president noted, “more than two centuries in the making.”

The historic repeal of DADT is only one part of the Obama administration’s larger fight on behalf of the LGBT community. Whether it is giving same-sex couples hospital visitation rights or  ensuring federal workers can afford long-term care for their partners, this administration is committed to fighting discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

I’m proud that the Department of Housing and Urban Development is part of that commitment, as we work to make inclusivity and diversity cornerstones of America’s housing policy.

Indeed, from conducting the first-ever national study of LGBT housing discrimination to instructing our staff to be vigilant about whether any LGBT-based housing discrimination complaints can be pursued through the Fair Housing Act, we’ve worked to ensure our core housing programs are open to all.

That’s why we recently announced a new rule ensuring LGBT individuals and couples can benefit from HUD programs.

Our proposed regulations will make clear that the term “family” includes LGBT individuals and couples as eligible beneficiaries of our public housing and Housing Choice Voucher programs.

Unfortunately, while HUD programs are designed and administered to provide a decent home for every American, we’ve seen evidence that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and families are being arbitrarily excluded from some housing opportunities.

For instance, two years ago Michelle DeShane, a lesbian, wanted to add her partner Mitch, a transgender male, to her housing voucher.  The local housing authority denied her request because the couple did not meet its definition of “family.”

The housing authority then referred the couple to a neighboring housing authority — because, as they were apparently told, the neighboring housing authority “accepts everyone — even Martians.”

That’s not right. No one should be subject to that kind of treatment or denied access to federal housing assistance because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

And so, through this proposed rule, the Obama administration is ensuring that when it comes to housing assistance funded with taxpayer dollars, they won’t be.

Specifically, it adds “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the list of definitions applicable to HUD programs. It clarifies HUD regulations to ensure that all eligible families have the opportunity to participate in HUD programs regardless of marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity.

And it prohibits inquiries regarding sexual orientation or gender identity and makes clear that gender identity and sexual orientation should not and cannot be part of any lending decision when it comes to getting an FHA-insured mortgage.

Every American family should have the opportunity to make a home for themselves free from discrimination. That is why this rule is so important — and it’s why all of us at HUD are so proud to announce it.

Shaun Donovan is the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 28.

—  John Wright

Obama orders additional benefits for same-sex partners of executive branch employees

ObamaPresident Barack Obama has ordered child care, medical leave, relocation and other benefits to be extended to the same-sex partners of executive branch federal employees, according to The Washington Post.

The benefits include only those he can offer under existing law. Others need congressional action.

Currently, if an employee is moving with a partner, the employee is sent a bill for half the moving expenses. If they are flying and have a pet, their pet would get an airline ticket and the partner would get a bill.

Last year, we reported that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton changed rules for State Department employees. Before the change, if an embassy was being evacuated, the employee, partner and their dog would be evacuated, but they’d received a bill for the partner.

In other words, before the change, the federal government was treating dogs better than same-sex partners.

—  David Taffet

UNT student group GLAD looking to build LGBT family panel for Mar. 3 meeting


UNT student Jake Richert contacted me for a little help with his student group. The Gay and Lesbian Association of Denton is in search of finding LGBT families to come and talk to their group at their Mar. 3 meeting at 7 p.m. They are hoping to have a panel put together by Feb. 28 but wanted to get the word out ASAP. Here is Richert’s message.

glad: The North Texas Queer Alliance at UNT in Denton, TX is looking for panelists for our Wednesday, March 3, 2010 meeting on campus at 7PM. The panel topic is about the joys, struggles, and overall experience of being an LGBT family in America and in Texas today.

For our panel, we’re looking for representation from everyone in the LGBT community – specifically LGBT parents – with diverse structure, background, and experience. Those who started out LGBT and those with LGBT parents as a new facet are both welcome. Children (young adult age +, please) are also welcome to come and share. We want to hear about adoption, parenting, legal struggles, schools, coming out to children, church life, family support, constructs of motherhood/fatherhood, etc. – how ever many avenues we can explore, the better.

Also, we do not necessarily need the entire family. One parent can come speak on behalf of their entire family, for example.

For more information on glad, visit our blog here.

Peace, love, & rainbows.

Jake

—  Rich Lopez