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April 16th, 2010
08:00 AM ET

Obama: Allow hospital visits for gays

(CNN) - President Obama has asked the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a rule that would prevent hospitals from denying visitation privileges to gay and lesbian partners.

The president's Thursday memo said, "There are few moments in our lives that call for greater compassion and companionship than when a loved one is admitted to the hospital. ... Yet every day, all across America, patients are denied the kindnesses and caring of a loved one at their sides."

Gay and lesbian Americans are "uniquely affected" by relatives-only policies at hospitals, Obama said, adding that they "are 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."

When Lisa Pond collapsed during a family vacation in Florida three years ago, her partner of 17 years was kept away from her hospital room.

Janice Langbehn begged and waited for hours to stand by Pond's bedside at Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital, but it wasn't until her partner's sister arrived that she got any information. In the end, the person Pond was closest to was relegated to a waiting room as she died from an aneurysm. FULL STORY

Filed under: Gay Rights
soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. Midge

    And what about the rights of long-term heterosexual partners?

    April 19, 2010 at 10:30 am |
  2. MikeTheInfidel

    "Nurse" said:
    "In an emergency situation such as the one described, it is next of kin, or immediate family. It is ridiculous to make this a "gay" issue."

    And that's entirely the point. A gay person's partner is neither next of kin nor immediate family and would not be allowed in.

    April 19, 2010 at 8:42 am |
  3. Corey

    Wow. I am always amazed at human beings capacity to be cruel to one another. Whether a mean spirited staff person barring someone from a love one or the people commenting that somehow this infringes on heterosexual rights. Sad.

    April 19, 2010 at 8:00 am |
  4. LT

    Only praise for our President. We send our men and women to war to fight for human rights in other countries then deny our own citizens some of the very rights our soldiers die for. Thanks Mr. President to help America.

    April 19, 2010 at 7:56 am |
  5. Lisa Staples

    The Sprit Airlines is a small regional airline. they charge $39 and is used by commuters. Could the whole bagage issue be associated with a busy schedule & weight?

    April 19, 2010 at 7:53 am |
  6. Bill

    It's about time. Just wait till politicians realize how much their states can make off of gay marriage, not to mention gay divorce and they'll push that through so quick it wouldn't surprise me if Mitt Romney ended up suppoting it too.

    April 19, 2010 at 1:50 am |
  7. symboybot

    That should read "forty years".

    April 19, 2010 at 12:53 am |
  8. symboybot

    Thanks you President Obama! It is certainly about time. Now there is DOMA and DODT both of whom I am certain you are already at work on changing. No president has been sworn in with so many simultaneous crises all of which have to be reacted to at the same time. It is no wonder that some have taken a little longer than others. I have had faith and trust in your intent and willingness to do the right thing. I believe we should all breath a sigh of relief and have some faith in the intent and will of this great man. I have been a gay/lesbian activist for nearly forth years and I know the real deal when I see it. We need to combine our political power with others of similar character and intent and help this president to succeed in a host of areas that are still demanding and critical. He is our ally and will keep his promises. So lets help him keep his majorities in congress and get back the 60 vote margin in the Senate so we can continue to make progress on all of these vital interests.

    April 19, 2010 at 12:52 am |
  9. NURSE

    Hospitals don't ask whether a visitor is gay or not. We don't care. I've never refused any visitor unless the patient wanted it that way. In an emergency situation such as the one described, it is next of kin, or immediate family. It is ridiculous to make this a "gay" issue.

    April 19, 2010 at 12:31 am |
  10. equality

    Wow, that's pretty bad. Any close partner should be allowed to vist someone in the hospital. That's just compassion and common sense. Patients benefit from having family there and denying them beased on marital or other status is absurd. Get with the program.

    April 18, 2010 at 4:56 pm |
  11. David

    Well, it sure is a shame that a sitting U.S. President has to issue an order to get people to do that which is right. In this day and age, one would think that people had enough sense to allow 'whomever' wants to visit a loved one do so. Ah, but good ol' prejudice still takes front row center on this issue folks. Prejudice! How can we allow "those people" to visit one another? Why...why they could possibly hurt me and my family if they do. Why it's just unnatural. I'll tell you what's really unnatural, it is the thinking of these dark-aged, draconian-minded fogeys who want to control the lives of others. Kudos to Mr. Obama for ordering this much needed change that will help those who are ill and in need of a loved one's company to help them feel so much better that their loved one can now be there in their most special time of need.

    April 18, 2010 at 3:19 pm |
  12. John Milford

    I like and support President Obama in almost everything he tries to do.

    However, in this case, Obama merely "asked" for a "rule" that would prevent hospitals from denying visitation privileges to gay and lesbian partners.

    Even if the Department of Health and Human Services actually decide to do ANYTHING to appease the President, it will be watered down, weak, poorly written allowing for massive variations in interpretation, and not be adhered to and/or supported by the established, well-entrenched, biased medical community.

    No specific laws equals no real action. Intent does not make legally supported requirements.

    Obama's "letter" is a weak play at trying to appease the Gay & Lesbian community. Why didn't he make it a Presidential directive or seek real legislation which would require support and legally punish those who did NOT support it to the full extent of the law.

    John Milford
    Dallas, TX

    April 18, 2010 at 1:22 pm |
  13. michael

    this is not just about gay and lesbian rights. It can happen to anyone you care about.

    A couple of years ago, my wife and I had a visit from a friend from our past. We had been neighbors whilst living abroad for almost 15 yrs. After her divorce, she had decided to travel the world, and reconnect with lost friends, and since we now lived in the usa, asked if she could visit, and stay with us while she 'saw' the country.
    This friend had travelled from Australia, where her two children were then in families of there own.

    Whilst she was travelling in Florida, she was involved in a car accident, suffering extensive head injuries and was in a coma. It took two days for the police to determine that we were listed as her emergency contact from the car rental, and it was another two days before my wife had flown to the hospital there.
    But similar to the story above, my wife was not allowed visitation as she was not a relative. After 3 days, our friend had come out of her coma, and was able to request my wife to visit her, that the hospital had allowed my wife to enter our friends room.

    We often worry what may have happened if our friend had been unlucky and died. To be the closest thing to family and to not be able to provide solace and support at that time caused my wife a lot of heartache and grief.

    This is why I think this is a good rule.

    April 18, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
  14. Cathy

    Clearly not enough, but at least it's a first step in the right direction. I cannot imagine being kept from my husband's side as he was sick or dying. A long way to go (and hopefully Obama steps up to the plate to fix it)....

    April 18, 2010 at 12:26 pm |
  15. Lynn

    I can't imagine being in that situation. Where is the compassion? I'm sorry, I just don't understand all the hate. Cold and indifferent seems to be the norm these days.
    Janice, I'm sorry for your loss.

    April 18, 2010 at 8:39 am |
  16. con walla

    I believe that this is the most moral and ethical decision to be made on this subject. I can't ,for any reason ,wonder why anyone could object. Denying a loved one rights to visitation goes against any loving and compassionate actions.
    I firmly agree with our President.

    April 17, 2010 at 11:45 pm |
  17. susie

    I have worked as an RN for 40 years and never have heard of or experianced someone being asked to leave the hospital because they were gay. This is a non issue. Patient with unclear or no directive-now that is a problem. But easily fixed. Everyone should appoint persons to make health decisions in case they are unable to do so for themselves. You knowTerry Shivo was married.

    April 17, 2010 at 6:57 pm |
  18. Roger Hanson

    And people say gays are not discriminated against, this is just one example. The county where I live is glad to put sexual orientation on their list of non discrimination groups on every piece of letterhead and email. Yet, as an employee, legally married in CA, I cannot put my husband on my insurance. We are on our car ownership and insurance accounts and bank accounts, we still are wronged in this way. We will survive since another company has to insure him for a big chunk of change instead of me paying to add him as a spouse.

    We still have a long way to go, and will win equal rights.

    April 17, 2010 at 6:35 pm |
  19. Susan

    There's something very wrong when some additional privileges are granted by the mere words: "Oh, but we're sleeping together." Has everyone gone mad?

    April 17, 2010 at 6:06 pm |

    I agree with the Obama decision to make law that a persons' partner should be allowed in the hospital room of the person; especially if there is substantial proof that this is, in fact, a real relationship and not just a one night stand. If possible get the patients' authorization by mouth and/or signature. There shouldn't be any discriminatory policies placed on partners/lovers during these most serious, worrational, and important times in both of their lives. IT'S ALL ABOUT BEING REASONABLE AND HUMAN!!

    April 17, 2010 at 5:10 pm |
  21. rickster

    how dare the president do the right thing like this. how dare he deny bigotted hospital staff the right to keep gays partners apart when at the hospital.

    April 17, 2010 at 5:08 pm |
  22. Carol Senal

    It's about time!

    April 17, 2010 at 4:03 pm |
  23. Monet

    I think this is such great news!

    April 17, 2010 at 2:53 pm |
  24. Chris

    I am grateful to the Obama administration for this executive order, but frankly appalled and embarrassed that it was even necessary. I am even further saddened by the fact that in the CNN poll close to 15% of respondents don't agree with the order. Who could possibly feel right about denying sick people in the hospital access to their loved ones?

    April 17, 2010 at 2:38 pm |
  25. greenluv1322

    There is a simple solution to this MARRIAGE EQUALITY for all then we LGBT would not have to be used as political fodder. Thank you.

    P.S. Like anything OBAMA does this is not only about gays if it was he wouldn't have done it.

    April 17, 2010 at 2:20 pm |
  26. just me

    its about time! seriously no matter how you stand on Gays, either evil religious right or normal person. this is the right decision

    April 17, 2010 at 1:23 pm |
  27. Alan Campbell Moscrop

    We, in Canada, just don't get it (hospitals restrict visits by same gender partners).
    When are Americans going to lurch into the 21st. century, and just get over it?

    April 17, 2010 at 10:54 am |
  28. David

    I want to say with all ignorance aside that homosexual people are of the same race, age, religion, as any other heterosexual person and that we should be afforded the same rights as any other person in this "free" country. It's the first decade into the 21st century and we are still arguing over the "rights" of homosexual people as if we are doing something that conflicts with the daily workings of the country in which we reside in. Lets be realistic we pay the same taxes, drive the same cars, eat the same food, fly in the same planes in the same sky, work at the same companies, and drink the same water as our heterosexual counterparts and from what I can tell we have not yet been known to be the cause or reason for anyone to get a divorce, kill their child, starve themselves, drop out of school, or cause anyone to be homeless. I think it's time that we as a whole worry about ourselves and let people live how they live and worry about more important issues like education, and childcare for children with single parents, and medicare. I'll step off my soapbox now.

    April 17, 2010 at 6:29 am |
  29. John

    I think this is a great idea because no mater who you are this is America and it dosn't matter if you are gay. Some people however don't know what the word "America" means!

    April 17, 2010 at 12:41 am |
  30. Jill

    As a daughter of a gay man, this brings great joy to my heart. My fathers partner of 15 years was not allowed to see him while he was hospitalized after he suffered a heart attack. I am his closest relative and I live almost 12 hours away. I only wish that this had been standard 4 years ago, then my father would not have had to lay in the hospital alone until I got there. The policies needed to be revised years ago, and now, I feel secure knowing that if I were ever to be hospitalized, my partner will be able to see me as well as my blood relatives. Thank you Mr. Obama!

    April 16, 2010 at 9:16 pm |
  31. Smith in Oregon

    This is entirely a question of mercy and compassion of the ill being able to be visited and near significant others and significant loved ones.

    Here in Oregon, LAWS permitting that have been on the State Books for the past 16 years.

    It should be no surprise under the past 8 years of the horrific Republican led bible thumping administration of Bush-Cheney that domestic federal laws granting mercy and compassion to American citizens were non-existent.

    April 16, 2010 at 8:13 pm |
  32. Laurel Fay

    Thank heavens for a president with compassion, dignity, and intestinal fortitude! Bravo!! I am starting to be proud to be an American once again.

    April 16, 2010 at 8:10 pm |
  33. Lamar W. Sessoms, Jr.

    The issue here is not about ‘Gay Rights’ but ‘Human Rights’! The issue here is Janice Langbehn had a power of attorney to see Lisa Pond and the hospital ignored that legal right. Obama should tell her to sue in civil court rather than making special laws for Gays. Obama is a lawyer and knows that anybody with a Power of Attorney should have it honored or civil law is meaningless. People need to get off the gay issue and pay attention to the human issue that is more important than gay rights. Gays should have the same rights as everybody else; period. They are American men and women first; no more and no less. Tell Obama that no special civil rights are needed in America for a sexual behavior. Obama should use his law degree to enforce American rights to be human and love anybody you want. The world needs more love not special rights for Gays. This right for Janice Langbehn to see her lover (male or female is not the issue) was not special, but a human right to love who you want which every hospital should respect, when Janice Langbehn has a power of attorney legal document.

    April 16, 2010 at 7:27 pm |
  34. Daniel

    I, for one, am happy this has occurred.

    When my partner of almost 17 yrs was very sick a few years ago and had to be put into CCU, we had to lie to the nurses and staff just so that I could see him. We didn't like that we had to do that. It seemed to make a mad situation just worst, at least emotionally.

    I spend 23 hrs of every day with him until he was released from the hospital. His own family did not even show up to see him until his 3rd week in the hospital. I couldn't even begin to imagine how it would have been if I wasn't able to see him. To comfort him. To simply be company to him.

    I think it is also good that this new rule doesn't only cover same sex couples, but ALL non blood friends and family. It's only right.

    April 16, 2010 at 6:56 pm |
  35. Gail hennessey

    Expecting to hear on Fox News? Channel that President Obama has now passed a law that all those in hospitals MUST have a visitation by a gay or lesbian or face a fine.

    April 16, 2010 at 3:10 pm |
  36. Greg Gilbert

    I'm a RN and have worked in 5 states and have yet to see this an issue. I never worked ICU though and they do have stricter visitation policies but that is usually just in regards to number of visitors.

    April 16, 2010 at 10:16 am |
  37. Phil Roberts

    It is intellectually bankrupt and dishonest to say that gay and lesbian individuals are "unable to act as a legal surrogate if their partner is incapacitated." As an attorney, the President certainly should understand that a simple "medical power of attorney" is used by all types of people to afford this legal right.

    I would like the President to explain how a hospital can legally validate whether someone truly is an individual's gay or lesbian parnter when the hospitalized person is "incapacitated." Makes no sense whatsoever and is impractical.

    Do what everyone else does by executing a "medical power of attorney" and this issue will not exist. No need to dictate what is really an defacto attempt legalize gay and lesbian relationships in states which have clearly defined their definition of marriage. In fact, this attempt could be viewed as discriminatory against two heterosexual individuals in a realtionship if they are not afforded the same right that is being proposed to be given to gays and lesbians.

    April 16, 2010 at 9:27 am |
  38. David Flora

    The only focus of NASA should be restoring the health of our beauti-
    ful blue planet! I've seen several scientific studies on "colonizing
    Mars", and they conclude that it would take hundreds or even thou-
    sands of years to make that planet habitable for humans, or, may-
    be people would not mind living under a bubble....the US should
    stop wasting our money on "colonizing Mars", but instead, join with
    all nations to reduce the birthrate through education and a comp-
    rehensive birth control program. Over population is the basis for al-
    most ALL the world's problems, including increasing carbon im-
    David Flora


    April 16, 2010 at 9:09 am |
  39. Ms. Rowena

    Hello, the directive clearly reads: "This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law."

    Okay, it's not enforceable. Okay, it does not create any right or benefit. It's simply a request that medical care facilities won't have much trouble dodging in conservative areas. Smoke and mirrors, folks, to distract from DADT and DOMA and all the other stuff. So sad to see people so eager that they are also easily deceived. Hold out for REAL rights, people! Demand them! Do not be fooled by the strange man in the overcoat who is offering you some cheap candy.

    April 16, 2010 at 9:02 am |
  40. good ol boy

    I wonder how many solders have their spouses at their side before they die from being shot up while fighting for americas freedoms.

    April 16, 2010 at 8:18 am |